The NSW Police Commissioner has asked the federal government for 300 Australian Defence Force personnel to ensure Greater Sydney residents are complying with lockdown restrictions.
But the mayor of Cumberland Council fears his south-western Sydney community will find the image of troops patrolling their streets “demoralising”.
Mick Fuller sent the request to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday, saying the troops were needed as his police force expanded its enforcement activities in Sydney over the coming days.
“The assistance of the ADF has been essential over the past 18 months – particularly during last year’s border operation, the ongoing hotel quarantine operation and the assistance provided with logistics support in the Police Operations Centre,” Commissioner Fuller said in a statement.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott said the army had helped NSW in the past during crises.
“As I have said previously, support from the army will add another line of defence to the NSW Government’s crackdown on COVID-19 compliance,” he said.
Cumberland City Council major Steve Christou said he was concerned about the prospect of the army being sent in, as it would cause anxiety among residents.
“If the army is going to be brought in to just enforce lockdown, I don’t think it’s going to be a good look at all,” he said.
“I don’t think people are going to accept it very well – our people are one of the poorest demographics, and as it is, they already feel picked on and marginalised, as if their whole life has been taken away from them.
“They can’t afford to pay the mortgage, the rent, the food or work. Now to throw out the army to enforce lockdown on the streets is going to be a huge issue to these people.
“It’s demoralising for a lot of people.”
He said it would be a different scenario if the army was to help Western Sydney health centres and with logistics.
SBS News understands the Department of Defence is yet to receive a request from Emergency Management Australia to deploy the troops.
The prime minister’s office has been contacted for comment.