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Defence help on national cabinet’s agenda in push to stamp out new cases

“You’ll see them out and about supporting Victoria Police in terms of those checkpoints, those roadblocks between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“There’ll be a number in the state control centre to add to a similar number already here doing everything from clinical work, doing mass testing [and] support in the state control centre.”

Victoria will within days double the number of ADF personnel helping its authorities, Daniel Andrews says.

Victoria will within days double the number of ADF personnel helping its authorities, Daniel Andrews says.Credit:Paul Jeffers

While NSW has about 150 defence personnel supporting its hotel quarantine measures, most other states and territories are yet to deploy them in the same way.

The total ADF deployment to the states on pandemic operations has grown to at least 1129 staff, including 206 in NSW, 476 in Queensland, 25 in Western Australia, 10 in South Australia, 81 in the Northern Territory and none in the Australian Capital Territory.

The Queensland deployment includes 121 on border checks, 48 helping Indigenous communities, 46 doing isolation checking and 46 doing quarantine assistance.

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The national cabinet agenda includes a discussion of the Victorian outbreak, quarantine controls, borders and international arrivals.

As national cabinet prepares for these discussions, the Australian Border Force corrected figures the government released on Wednesday claiming there were 72,000 international arrivals over the past month.

The ABF said the actual number of arrivals from June 7 to July 7 was 28,069. This comprised 14,192 in NSW, 5267 in Victoria, 4527 in Queensland, 2509 in Western Australia, 836 in the Northern Territory, 438 in South Australia, 296 in Canberra and four in Tasmania.

Health Minister Greg Hunt noted on Thursday that “seven out of eight” states and territories had done a “magnificent job” on hotel quarantine, pointing to the breaches in Victoria in recent weeks.

“We have offered the Australian Defence Force,” he told the Nine Network. “That hasn’t been taken up, but that offer remains standing, if they believe it’s required.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said no state or territory was immune from the increase in cases seen in Victoria, and he hinted that community frustration was being directed at Mr Andrews.

“I can understand that many, many people in Victoria will be feeling very frustrated at the moment, and many are very angry and I’m aware of where they’re directing that frustration and anger,” he said.

“But it won’t help the situation if I were to engage in any of that.”

With case numbers on the rise in Canberra and NSW, linked to the Victorian outbreak, Mr Morrison said it was up to the states and territories to take up the offer of ADF personnel.

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“Ultimately state governments have got to make decisions about how they want to use those resources and deploy those resources,” he said.

“They’re accountable for the decisions that they make, and who they contract to do the job is a matter for them.”

The Prime Minister is also expected to discuss the next steps in the government’s economic measures, although final decisions on whether to extend the JobKeeper allowance will be made closer to the economic statement due on July 23.

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