Cumberland Mayor, Steve Christou, has hit out at NSW Government plans to bring in Australian Defence Force troops to assist with the enforcement of COVID-19 public health restrictions in Sydney’s south west.
“Putting the army on the streets, especially in a community like Cumberland, where a lot of the residents are from refugee backgrounds where they haven’t had a good experience with the army; where there have been civil wars and in a lot of cases they’ve fled to avoid army brutality – it’s not going to be good,” Mayor Christou (pictured) told Channel 9’s Today show.
“The army is here to defend its people, not to be used against its people and putting them on the streets to enforce lockdowns is not good,” he said.
“I’m supportive of the army – they play an important role in the defence of the country, however they are not to be used as a last resort measure because Gladys and her government have lost control.”
“And yesterday I was watching when the Deputy Premier admitted that they have no idea and they’re running out of ideas of how to combat this and it’s not good. Our state politicians are tucked away in their lounge rooms on full salaries while the rest of our people are suffering out here and they couldn’t possibly understand the restrictions and measures they’re putting on people’s lives.”
He said the tough public health restrictions faced by south west Sydney residents were taking a toll on residents’ mental health.
“Mental health is going downhill and this is a fact we’re hearing every day,” Mayor Christou said.
“My community are getting an unfair deal. They don’t deserve this. They are a great bunch of people and they deserve better treatment than what’s currently being dished up to them.”
Mayor Christou said a clear roadmap out of lockdown restrictions was required to restore community faith in the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Yesterday, Defence Minister Peter Dutton, confirmed that up to 300 personnel would be deployed following a request from NSW Police for help in enforcing COVID-19 compliance of the Greater Sydney lockdown.
“With an increase in enforcement activity over the coming week, I have made a formal request to the Prime Minister for ADF personnel to assist with that operation,” said NSW Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller.
“We all want to come out of lockdown. These new powers, the additional police into these areas, it’s about getting us out of lockdown sooner,” he said.
“So, you can expect to see more police on the ground; you can expect to see more enforcement.”
Defence members are expected to arrive in Sydney today and undergo weekend training before being deployed onto Sydney streets from Monday.