Labor leader Anthony Albanese says using Australian Defence personnel to beef up border controls is worthy of consideration and has attacked Prime Minister Scott Morrison for public "mixed messaging" as he handles Australia's third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It comes as the prime minister was unable to say on Friday if he supported a 'ring of steel' around greater Sydney to contain further leakage of the Delta strain of COVID-19 into regional areas. Instead, Mr Morrison said individual Australians must do the "right thing by our neighbours, our communities, our city, our country" to constrain and suppress the concerning outbreak in New South Wales.
In an interview with The Canberra Times, Mr Albanese said he was "very confident" the ACT could overcome its first outbreak in just over a year and said he supported Federal Parliament returning as scheduled on August 23.
He had this message of reassurance for Canberrans now in lockdown.
"They'll get through it. Canberrans are resilient. They look after each other, that's one of the great things about this city is a culture of being proud to be Canberrans and looking after each other," Mr Albanese said.
"Essentially, that's what people have to do to get through this, is put aside make some personal sacrifices in the interests of the community. And I'm very confident that they will."
While the origin of the ACT outbreak was still being officially determined, Sydney's outbreak was strongly believed to be the seeding event.
The Opposition leader said the NSW government was "clearly too slow to take action and when they did the action was too little". He's written to Mr Morrison to suggest using ADF medical personnel to assist with the vaccine rollout in western Sydney. In light of the ACT outbreak, Mr Albanese was now also suggesting another possible role for Defence personnel.
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"I think the idea here of further assistance in terms of border controls is one worthy of consideration as well," Mr Albanese said.
"As it is, there are, of course, restrictions on coming in and they've been observed. I think certainly it's unclear how this particular case came in or where the contact was."
Defence personnel so far have been used in NSW to help with compliance and provide logistical support.
The Labor leader's call to beef up border controls was new and comes amid growing calls, including by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to install a 'ring of steel' around greater Sydney.
After Friday's national cabinet meeting of Commonwealth, state and territory leaders, Mr Morrison focused on the effort of individuals.
"We've got to do the right thing by each other. We've got to do the right thing by our neighbours, our communities, our city, our country," he told reporters.
Mr Albanese said Australians had a right to be confused, but they needed reassurance during the pandemic.
"I think it would be good if the mixed messages weren't there," he said.
"I mean, he encouraged Gladys Berejiklian to not lock down. And then he praised her for it. And that was a mistake. And this was one month after a considerable period of time after Delta was known.
"I think one of the things that's characterised Scott Morrison's rhetoric during the period of the pandemic is its inconsistency and its inaccuracy. And that has led to confusion."
The Labor leader wants Federal Parliament to return as scheduled on August 23 despite ongoing concerns about a significant risk of sitting in the middle of a Covid outbreak.
"Essential work is still taking place," Mr Albanese said.
"And I think that, as has been recognised, our parliament is essential work that governments are able to be accountable, that people see that the political process is allowed to occur."
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