Daniel Andrews denies turning down ADF support despite bombshell letters

Daniel Andrews has denied he was reluctant to accept ADF troops to help enforce Victoria's second lockdown after bombshell letters showed Scott Morrison had offered them three times.

The prime minister urged Mr Andrews to accept troops in three letters sent on 4, 6 and 11 July as Victoria's second wave of Covid-19 threatened to overwhelm the state.

In the third letter, Mr Morrison tried to persuade Mr Andrews to take on 1,000 soldiers, writing: 'I recommend that you again consider further ADF deployment to Melbourne over the coming days.' 

A total of 1,000 Australian Defence Force troops (pictured) arrived in Melbourne after Mr Andrews announce he agreed to accept them on 14 July

A total of 1,000 Australian Defence Force troops (pictured) arrived in Melbourne after Mr Andrews announce he agreed to accept them on 14 July

Daniel Andrews (pictured on Thursday) has denied he was reluctant to accept ADF troops to help enforce Victoria's second lockdown even though Scott Morrison offered them three times

Daniel Andrews (pictured on Thursday) has denied he was reluctant to accept ADF troops to help enforce Victoria's second lockdown even though Scott Morrison offered them three times

The letters came after the Victorian government had requested 850 troops on 24 June but then retracted the request the next day, citing 'changing operational and resourcing requirements'. 

The state government chose to use Corrections Victoria staff instead of troops to man hotel quarantine after the virus escaped from the bungled program in late May. 

A government source told Sky News that Mr Morrison's letters were written in such a way that Victoria could not turn down the help. 

On 14 July, Mr Andrews announced 1,000 troops would arrive in Victoria over the following three to four weeks after he reached a deal with Mr Morrison.

On Thursday Mr Andrews denied that he was unwilling to accept the troops, saying that he was 'very grateful' for the support.

Asked by a reporter if he was reluctant to receive the help, he said: 'I don't think you can fairly draw the conclusion. 

'I made a request in June and indeed, earlier than that. I made many requests and I'm pleased to say they were answered and that is why we've got... more than 1,000 ADF troops on the ground now doing an amazing job.' 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Victorian premier to accept troops in three letters. Pictured are ADF troops and police patrolling Melbourne during the second wave of the virus

Bomshell letters reveal Scott Morrison (left at a steel factory last week) urged Daniel Andrews to accept troops three times

Bomshell letters reveal Scott Morrison (left at a steel factory last week) urged Daniel Andrews to accept troops three times

He added: 'I think it's inaccurate and unfair for you to infer from those letters... any reticence on my part.'

Asked if he accepted the prime minister's offer after the first letter, Mr Andrews said: 'I'd need to check. Letters come in, they usually follow requests.'

The reporter asked why the prime minister needed to send three letters offering support and the premier replied: 'Again, I think you are drawing conclusions. 

'You're free to do that but that freedom doesn't mean that you are right and I'm indicating to you that you are wrong.' 

In his first letter on 4 July - obtained by Sky News under Freedom of Information laws revealed - Mr Morrison said he was 'concerned' about cases spiking to 108 a day.

'This has necessitated a further two postcodes being listed as hotspots and new hard lockdowns of nine residential public housing buildings in North Melbourne,' he wrote. 

'I recognise the new measures and support the significant efforts underway. 

'The Commonwealth stands ready to provide any support needed on top of the existing measures in place, including Australian Defence Force support to support planning and logistics, and Commonwealth staff to support clinical efforts, community engagement and contact tracing,' the letter said. 

Mr Morrison added ADF personnel could also help with patrolling affected suburbs already in lockdown.

'As we have seen with the previous outbreaks in North-West Tasmania and Sydney, these types of outbreaks can quickly overwhelm local health systems. I reaffirm the offer of Commonwealth for on-the-ground support and help in co-ordinating support from other states while acknowledging Victoria's leadership,' the letter said.

Mr Morrison also expressed concern about the number of cases where travellers had been identified entering NSW, sparking a spike in fresh cases there.

Pictured are ADF personnel manning  a Princes Highway checkpoint outside Melbourne

Pictured are ADF personnel manning  a Princes Highway checkpoint outside Melbourne

The prime minister followed up with another letter three days later on 7 July, followed by a third on July 11.

'It is critical to the containment of the virus that the now thousands of people in isolation and quarantine are carefully tracked by phone and personal visits to ensure compliance (and to ensure their welfare),' Mr Morrison stressed in the third letter.

He added:  'An estimated 1,000 ADF could be progressively deployed in this way over the next week, with greater scope beyond. Given the escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, I recommend you

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