Truckies have held up traffic for hours in a protest against Queensland’s vaccine mandate for essential workers entering from NSW, as unions back the state’s plan to roll out the jab for international ship crews.
Traffic was backed up for kilometres after two prime movers were parked in the two southbound lanes of the Pacific Motorway at Reedy Creek South on the Gold Coast about 5.30am on Monday.
One truck driver named Brock, who did not give his surname, said the drivers were protesting the Queensland government’s health orders, which only allow essential workers to enter from NSW if they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“End all lockdowns, people go back to work and kids go back to school,” he told Nine’s Today show.
“That’s what we want out of it, we’ve had enough of it.
“We’ve had a lot the support mate, the people that showed up today is amazing, we appreciate everyone that’s come down.”
News footage showed One Nation senator Pauline Hanson and her advisor James Ashby at the protest.
Police said the trucks had been moved on and traffic was again freely flowing by 7.20am.
Federal Employment Minister Stuart Roberts said the health orders were tough, but the truckies shouldn’t inconvenience thousands of people to make a point.
He said truck drivers were important, but personal liberty needed to be balanced with public good.
“Vaccination seems to be the way for us to be able to get through this, to get back out of lockdown and to get ourselves back to the freedoms that we love here in Australia,” Mr Robert said.
“The rest of the world is doing it. Sure, there is carnage left, right and centre, but there is carnage left, right and centre here.
“No one wants it, it isn’t a perfect situation. I have taken the decision to get vaccined, get it done. It isn’t necessarily what I want to do, but it’s the only way to move forward.”
The truckie protest came as Queensland becomes the first state to trial rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to international seafarers arriving in local ports.
Maritime Safety Queensland and Queensland Health will administer the jab to crews in ports with the International Transport Workers’ Federation supporting the move.
“International seafarers are the backbone of the economy, but a growing number of COVID outbreaks on vessels arriving in Australian ports highlights the need for urgent action to protect the health of these workers, reduce the risk of community transmission, and strengthen supply chain resilience,” ITF Australia co-ordinator Ian Bray said.
ITF president and Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the program should be rolled out across Australia.
“Without ships, Australia’s economy would grind to a halt, which is why COVID testing of all international seafarers arriving in Australian ports, the provision of healthcare to sick workers, and a national plan to vaccinate the entire workforce is so important,” Mr Crumlin said.