As a vast crowd assembled in Melbourne’s CBD to protest vaccine mandates and the Labor government’s stalled Pandemic Bill, state Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has vowed there will be no more lockdowns under a government led by him.
Mr Guy made the pledge at an event in Dandenong South on Saturday morning to mark one year until the state election.
“The Liberals and Nationals are here 12 months out to give a very clear commitment to Victorians for the next election. No ifs, no buts, no more lockdowns,” he said to applause from the crowd.
The Melbourne demonstration marked the third consecutive weekend of public opposition and the day after all authorised workers in the state were required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to keep their jobs.
Jab or job?
Authorised workers include AFL players and other professional athletes, first responders, hospitality and retail workers, personal trainers and those in industries including manufacturing and mining.
Mandates earlier came into effect for workers in construction, freight, health care, aged care and education.
Saturday’s crowd gathered outside state Parliament at midday before moving onto Bourke Street Mall.
They waved Australian, Aboriginal and Eureka flags as well as those of other countries including Greece, Lebanon and Macedonia, and held signs with slogans such as “fear God not Dan”, “end segregation now” and “kill the bill”, in reference to the pandemic legislation before parliament.
Several bus and tram routes have been affected by the protest, with motorists urged to allow plenty of extra time if travelling into the city.
A protest against mandatory vaccination also drew Sydney protesters to Hyde Park.
‘Lockdowns have hurt our community’
Mr Guy said Victorians were sick of the “negativity” of the Andrews Labor government, which has imposed six COVID-19 lockdowns on the state totalling 263 days.
“Lockdowns have hurt our community, they’ve hurt people, our kids, our state,” he said.
“Over 90 per cent of us are fully vaccinated and that number will only increase. So as far as we’re concerned lockdowns should be a thing of the past.”
The election pledge came about an hour before the federal government announced a series of measures to protect Australians from the new Omicron strain of COVID-19 that has emerged in South Africa.
Asked whether the new variant could affect his plans, Mr Guy told reporters: “Every flu strain every year is different, we’re going to have to learn to live with this”.