The withdrawal of Australian soldiers from Queensland’s border with NSW is a political attack and the federal government should “back off”, the state government says.
The Australian Defence Force has announced it will pull out of the border zone on September 30 so personnel can prepare for the upcoming storm season.
The withdrawal will come just one day before Queensland significantly relaxes travel restrictions for 152,000 extra northern NSW residents, with border traffic expected to pick up.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles says the federal government’s decision will put pressure on police, who will have to work more shifts and longer hours to man border checkpoints.
“I really don’t think the defence force should be used as a bargaining chip in what is an ongoing political attack on the state government,” he said.
“Our policies have worked and they should back off.”
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the ADF had been provided to states and territories under an arrangement that ended on September 30.
He denied the move was a form of “payback” from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who have been involved in a long-running dispute over the border closure ahead of the October 31 state election.
“No, this was the agreement that was reached in August and we’ll continue to provide the support,” Mr Hunt insisted.
Mr Hunt wouldn’t comment on whether the ADF deployment would be extended if the Queensland government requested it, saying military movements were up to the prime minister.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers branded the ADF’s explanation of needing to prepare for the upcoming storm season as “political spin”.
He claimed the ADF would “never tell the truth” because they were controlled by political federal bureaucrats.
“Everyone can see it, there’s disagreement between premiers and the prime minister and obviously people are being pulled out, I suggest it’s political spin. I will call it for how it is,” Mr Leavers told ABC radio.
He warned police would have to be hauled from the front line to fill the positions.
Mr Leavers said the ADF had done a tremendous job supporting police and pulling them out “reeks of political interference”.
More than 300 soldiers will continue to oversee quarantine hotels in Queensland.