1 February 2022

'Freedom' protestors demand audience with PM at National Press Club

| James Coleman
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Protestors

Protestors surround the National Press Club, waiting for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to emerge. Photo: Kelly Moroney.

Anti-vaccine and mask mandate protestors swarmed around the National Press Club building in Barton today after hearing that Prime Minister Scott Morrison would make his first address of the year.

The ‘Convoy to Canberra’ began with a meagre number of protestors in a car park in Reconciliation Place on Monday morning (31 January) before a group 800-strong moved on Parliament House yesterday afternoon.

Protestors settled in makeshift camps throughout the National Triangle overnight and began surrounding the National Press Club this morning, waving Australian flags and demanding the Prime Minister speak to them.

The group then began heading towards Parliament House in preparation for a rally on the lawn at 2 pm, where former QANTAS pilot Graham Hood spoke to the crowd. Mr Hood was one of the airline’s longest serving employees before he resigned last year over the vaccine requirement.

READ ALSO UPDATED: Anti-vaccine and mask protestors move on Parliament House

The Prime Minister arrived at the National Press Club this morning without incident. He began his address at 12:30 pm by acknowledging that the country’s way of life had been turned upside down by COVID-19.

“For so many Australians, I know it has been exhausting, physically and emotionally,” he said.

“I understand and acknowledge the frustration, especially the way the pandemic has panned out. You’ve had to put up with a lot. It’s fair enough this disappointment leads you to ask, ‘Couldn’t you have done more?'”

He says the government has strived to satisfy the two objectives of saving lives and livelihoods throughout the pandemic and that health mandates have not “suspended the Australian constitution”.

“We must respect the virus, but we must not live in fear of it.”

Protestors at Australian Parliament House

The rally at Parliament House yesterday afternoon. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The rally comprises several factions, including the so-called Sovereign Citizens movement, which has been linked to the fire at Old Parliament House on 30 December. Others are touting conspiracy theories regarding private ownership of the Australian Government and “depopulation”.

The official position is stated on their Facebook page and reads that the protest is “for the people who want their lives back”.

Man with flag over shoulders

Protestors are angry about mask and vaccine mandates, among other issues. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A GoFundMe page associated with the convoy was frozen yesterday after racking up about $160,000 in donations over four days. The anonymous organiser, operating under the name ‘Ironbark Thunderbolt’, won’t be able to access the funds until GoFundMe is provided with a detailed spending plan.

However, it continues to gather funds and now stands at more than $175,000. The goal is $300,000.

The group’s official Facebook page has also garnered close to 160,000 followers.

The convoy is inspired by similar action in Canada and driven primarily by the effect of COVID-19 restrictions and isolation requirements on the trucking industry. Action in Canberra, however, primarily involves lighter vehicles.

Protest

Protestors at the car park in Reconciliation Place yesterday. Photo: James Coleman.

Shelly Boyle drove from Tweed Heads in her campervan to join the convoy. She says there aren’t many trucks in the protests as few trucks are privately owned in Australia and instead belong to companies.

“They have GPS tracking and other technologies that mean drivers can’t just take them where they want.”

Shelly is a primary school teacher and says she lost her job earlier this year when she refused to take the jab. She is also a keen surfer.

“I just want to go to the beach,” she told Region Media yesterday.

“What sort of country are we if we can’t even do that?”

Others spoke about job losses due to vaccine mandates and adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Protest sign on a truck

Light vehicles make up most of the convoy in Canberra. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The arrival of the convoy yesterday coincided with an announcement from the ACT Government that all low-level COVID-19 restrictions, including density limits, the mask mandate and the requirement to be seated while eating and drinking in public venues, will remain in place until 25 February.

Similar restrictions apply in NSW.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said yesterday that increased movement and activity across the community is expected in the coming weeks as schools reopen and many workers return to the office.

“The extension of these measures is a sensible step to mitigate virus transmission during a period of increased activity,” Mr Barr said.

More cars and trucks are expected to roll in from Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia over the coming days. Protestors maintain they will stay in position until they “take back the country”.

Road access to Parliament House is closed and police are directing traffic around State Circle. Police officers remain in place at Parliament House.

Parliament sits for the first time this year next Tuesday (8 February).

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Mark Parton, a Liberal member of the ACT Legislative Assembly, said he spent more than an hour talking with demonstrators at their campsite last week.

“I found it very difficult to have a coherent discussion with any of them because they genuinely believe that all elected members of any parliament will be arrested for treason,” he told the ABC.

“And some of them genuinely believe that there will be a public execution.

“When you’re faced with that sort of narrative, it’s very, very difficult to have a sensible argument.”

Finagen_Freeman1:49 pm 02 Feb 22

Good to see so many turnout for this momentous occasion. Driving their foreign made cars, wearing their Chinese-made clothes, on their chines-made phones, waving patriotic Australia flags made in India.

And their ideology, that’s awesome too. Founded in the deepest beliefs that the sovereign citizen has the right to choose what they do and don’t want to follow in terms of common laws and rules.

Next week, they’ll pack up (minus plastic water bottles with goodness what water contaminates) their chines-made tents, hop into their Korean built cars, fuelled by overseas owned petroleum and nip off to the nearest Aldi to stock up on German sourced food supplies.

Smoking, drinking and eating stuff they wouldn’t have the faintest clue was manufactured into it. Safe in the knowledge they don’t want to pop a needle in their arm, or wear a face mask.

Gotta love their version of the Aussie Spirit.

I sort of thought the wearing of masks and such came from our Assembly.
Shouldn’t they be protesting there ?
Although I don’t think there’s anyone’s home at the assembly joint, not till March I think. Might even be April.

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