News National Scott Morrison says protesters who breach social distancing rules should be arrested
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Scott Morrison says protesters who breach social distancing rules should be arrested

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The Prime Minister says police should charge anyone caught breaking social distancing rules at protests planned for Friday night and on Saturday.

“People wanting to take (the protests) further this weekend are showing a great disrespect to their fellow Australians,” he told 3AW on Thursday.

Asked if police should arrest and charge protesters, Mr Morrison said “I think they should, I mean, I really do think they should, because you can’t have a double standard here.”

In another interview, the Prime Minister has said there is no history of slavery in Australia, describing nationwide anti-racism rallies as a “real blocker” to easing coronavirus restrictions.

Speaking to 2GB, Mr Morrison said Australia at the time of colonisation “was a pretty brutal place, but there was no slavery… I think what we’re seeing with some of these protests, they start on a fair point when they’re raising issues about … people’s treatment in custody or things like that.

“Fair issue… but now it’s being taken over by other much more politically driven left wing agendas, which are seeking to take advantage of these opportunities to push their political causes.”

The Prime Minister says the “double standard” of Black Lives Matter protesters last weekend had offended many Australians, with the potential health fallout is impeding decisions around interstate travel, funeral numbers and places of worship.

“It’s been complicated by these rallies last weekend. We don’t know what the health impacts of that is,” Mr Morrison said.

“The rally last weekend is the only real legitimate blocker to this right now. We don’t know whether these protests will cause another outbreak, and we won’t know for another week.”

Mr Morrison dismissed calls to pull down statues of Captain Cook, saying that the protests had drifted from their original grievances and had now been hijacked by other forces.

“It just puts a massive spanner in the works and that’s why it’s so frustrating,” Mr Morrison said.

“They have put the whole track back to recovery at risk and certainly any further action on this front would be absolutely unacceptable.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said the large crowds struggled to maintain social distancing.

“If we had had a person or a number of people with COVID-19 amongst those crowds, then there would have been the risk of significant transmission,” he told the ABC.

He said the result of any transmission would be seen in coming days.

The Prime Minister said protesters should be charged if they attend further Black Lives Matter rallies.

“It’s a free country and we have our liberty but the price of liberty is we respect our fellow Australians,” he told 3AW radio.

“Turning up to a rally this weekend would show great disrespect to your neighbours.”

Mr Morrison has also declared JobKeeper payments will remain until the end of September for everyone except childcare workers.

“I already said that so I don’t know what that other speculation is about,” he said.

He has also ramped up calls for state leaders to set a border opening timetable, with coronavirus infections at low levels.

Mr Morrison wants premiers to nominate a July date, in line with the national cabinet’s target for the third stage of eased restrictions.

Labor’s transport spokeswoman Catherine King dismissed concerns about borders, saying the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme needed to be extended beyond September.

A move to extend JobKeeper to university workers failed in the Senate on Wednesday evening.

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said parliament should reverse the “malicious” move to exclude up to 30,000 workers.

“With the stroke of a pen, the government could reverse their absurd exclusion of university from this program and begin the hard work of protecting the sector,” she told the upper house.

The motion was defeated 31 votes to 30.

There were seven new cases reported across Australia on Wednesday, four in Victoria and three in NSW.

The average national daily increase has been at 0.06 over the past three days.

Just 20 people remain in hospital with the disease, three of them in intensive care.

While 102 people have died in Australia from coronavirus, more than 6740 of the 7276 diagnosed have recovered.

-with AAP