Lisa Wilkinson has slammed the actions of Melbourne’s protesters, saying the three days of violence and clashes with police has ‘got them nowhere’.
The Project host claimed demonstrators, initially rallying against mandatory Covid vaccinations on construction sites, have failed to win any sympathy from the public and only cemented the Victorian government’s hardline position.
What started as a protest against mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for the construction sector and a closure of building site tea rooms has since turned into wider unrest, causing chaos in the capital and drawing criticism from politicians.
But an expert on counter-extremism defended parts of the ‘disenfranchised and angry’ mob, pointing out that many blue collar workers – including full-time builders and contractors – have been laid off during the Covid pandemic and are understandably frustrated.
He warned blue collar workers were becoming increasingly ‘resentful and frustrated’ that while officer staff can easily work from home, they have been forced out of jobs.
A demonstrator gestures at police around the Shrine of Remembrance during the Melbourne protest on Tuesday (pictured) – with some experts saying those in attendance are ‘disenfranchised’ and angry about being out of work
‘After three days of this, I don’t know that it’s got them anywhere,’ Wilkinson, who has been able to work all throughout the pandemic on her TV job, said.
‘It’s not getting them any public sympathy, the government is locking down on their decision, I just don’t get what the purpose is – apart from upsetting a lot of people who are already doing it tough in lockdown.’
The Channel Ten star asked Deakin University Senior fellow Josh Roose if it’s likely the demonstrations were mostly made up of far-right extremists, as many of Australia’s union bosses have claimed.
‘It’s a really complex question because obviously you can’t identify people just by viewing them on TV or face-to-face,’ ,’ Dr Roose said.
‘Obviously there is a percentage of the workers feeling disenfranchised and angry, whether it be because they have been forced to have a vaccination or whether or not they feel themselves to be, then put out of work.
‘We also know that around the fringes of these groups, particularly online, in Telegram and other encrypted messages apps, there are far-right actors working to steer the conversations and to recruit, where possible, these men to their cause.’
Demonstrators have caused havoc in the Victorian capital over the past three days rallying against mandatory Covid vaccinations on construction sites among other demands
Protesters (pictured) run and throw projectiles at police as they flee the Shrine of Remembrance
The far-right researcher said these groups are ‘very skilled’ at preying on the anger and emotion of young men now experiencing the world’s longest time in lockdown.
But with Victoria’s construction industry largely able to keep operating during the prolonged shutdowns, he was asked whether it was surprising there was such a strong anti-lockdown sentiment among workers in the sector – compared to many other industries which have been completely decimated.
‘Obviously the construction industry has stayed afloat and busy, but that said, not all of the construction industry and not all the blue collar professions have continued,’ Dr Roose said.
‘There are many professions, particularly in labour hire and contracting, where people haven’t actually had the opportunity to go to work and they have basically been laid off almost immediately.
Counter-extremism expert Josh Roose (right) told Lisa Wilkinson (left) a percentage of the workers feel disenfranchised and angry, whether it be because they have been forced to have a vaccination or forced out of work during shutdowns
‘We don’t know the composition of the protest entirely but it’s safe to assume that many of those workers who are protesting may have experienced that.
‘To go to a different point, there may be a level of entitlement among the people who feel they should be able to work irrespective of the fact that many can’t.’
Another factor at play is that there is ‘deep-seated anger, resentment and frustration spewing out into the community’ about who can work and who can’t.
‘There is a gap emerging however between those of us who can stay at home and work or people who’re stuck at home who’re unable to work,’ Dr Roose said.
Dr Roose said there is anger emerging between those of us who can stay at home and work or people who’re stuck at home who’re unable to work (pictured, Melbourne protesters)
A Melbourne police officer is seen with a large weapon used to fire rubber bullets on the crowds as things became increasingly heated on Tuesday
Ugly scenes played out in the streets of Melbourne for a third straight day on Wednesday as police started firing rubber bullets, stinger grenades and pepper balls at demonstrators stationed at Melbourne’s war memorial.
About 400 people wearing hi-vis clothing swarmed Victoria’s Shrine of Remembrance which was built to honour the state’s men and women who served in the First World War.
The mob chanted ‘lest we forget’ as they stood in front of the monument, some decked out in body armour and helmets in anticipation of a police attack while others urged officers not to arrest them out of ‘respect for the Anzacs’.
After an hours-long standoff where police offered to let protesters leave, officers opened fire to clear demonstrators who had started pelting them with bottles.
Victoria Police arrested 215 protesters throughout the day while two officers suffered head injuries, and one was taken to hospital with chest pains. Tap handles, golf balls, batteries and bottles were thrown at them from the shrine.
Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther said: ‘It was completely disrespectful that the crowd ended up at the shrine, which is such hallowed ground in this great city.’
Protesters are seen marching through the streets of Melbourne with one holding a lit flare
A man, wearing a suit with war medals is pictured outside the Shrine of Remembrance
RSL Victoria also slammed the protesters, saying they were ‘completely disrespecting the sanctity’ of the shrine.
‘Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance is a sacred place, of critical importance to the current and ex-service members of our community, for commemorating service and for the remembrance of those who have died performing their patriotic duty,’ a statement read.
‘Under no circumstances, ever, should the Shrine be a place of protest.
‘If any individuals or groups choose to express their political views, positions or ideological theories in the grounds of the Shrine at any time, they are completely disrespecting the sanctity of this time-honoured space, those men and women of the Australian Defence Force who have lost their lives, and all Victorian veterans.’
Police opened fire at protests with rubber bullets after being pelted with rocks an bottles
A demonstrator is taken away by police at Victoria’s Shrine of Remembrance on Wednesday
The scenes came after protesters stormed the Melbourne headquarters of the CFMEU on Monday and marched aimlessly across the CBD – including the West Gate Bridge on Tuesday.
For about seven hours on Tuesday the group of about 2000 played a cat and mouse game with riot police, clashing with officers and launching themselves onto cars as terrified bystanders watched on in fear.
Tensions have been brewing for months within the construction industry with a significant contingent of workers vehemently opposed to the coronavirus jab requirement.
The state recorded of further 628 infections on Wednesday as well as three more deaths.
Of the state’s 6,000 active Covid cases, 403 are directly linked to 186 construction sites – with health officials fearing the industry is not taking the deadly virus seriously.
After workers stormed their own union’s office Premier Andrews ordered a shutdown of the building sectors for 14 days, enraging the already furious cohort who have now promised to take to the streets everyday until their list of 12 demands are met.
The bizarre list includes an end to vaccination requirements, lockdowns, mask mandates and the mass distribution of invermectin – an unproven treatment for Covid which has become popular among online conspiracy theory groups.
Riot squad cops march in unison as they move towards protesters at the Melbourne war memorial
A female officer is kitted out is full tactical gear including a weapon used for firing rubber bullets
MELBOURNE ANTI-VAXXER PROTESTERS’ LIST OF DEMANDS
1. Emergency state powers to be removed immediately
2. Lockdowns to end immediately
3. Mask mandate to end immediately
4. Vaccine mandates to end immediately
5. Vaccine passport to be removed
6. Immediate resignation of Premier Daniel Andrews
7. Immediate resignation of Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton
8. Immediate resignation of Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton
9. Royal commission into government’s response to pandemic
10. Charges laid against officers for ‘assaulting peaceful protesters’
11. All construction sites to resume immediately
12. Mass distribution of invermectin, vitamins C, D, and zinc
Their demands also call for the immediate resignation of Premier Andrews who has kept Melburnians under stay-at-home orders longer than any other place in the world with a staggering accumulative total of 235 days since the pandemic first began.
Mr Andrews said the group’s actions were an ‘insult’ to the majority of law-abiding tradies on Wednesday, adding that protesters were not just builders but also far-right freedom protesters and anti-vaxxers.
‘Can I say at the outset that the ugly scenes that we saw yesterday are not only appalling, they’re unlawful. Victoria Police will take action against those who did the wrong thing yesterday,’ Mr Andrews said in his first public appearance since the protests.
‘I think there were some people there who you would say were from the building industry.
‘There were others who were not from the building industry. They’re not there to protests, they’re there for a fight, pretend to be protesting. They’re from many different backgrounds.
‘What we saw yesterday is an insult, an insult, to the vast, vast majority of tradies or people in the building industry who are not about wrecking, they’re about building.’
The protesters have called for the immediate resignation of Premier Andrews who has kept Melburnians under stay-at-home orders longer than any other place in the world with a staggering accumulative total of 235 days since the pandemic first began
Victoria’s construction industry shut down – explained
The shutdown was announced late on Monday following violent protests outside the CFMEU’s head office in Melbourne’s CBD over a vaccine mandate for the industry.
It applies to work sites across Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong, Mitchell Shire and the Surf Coast.
Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas said the shutdown was required to cut down movement, reduce COVID-19 transmission and give the industry time to adapt to the new requirements.
‘We put the industry on notice just a week ago, we have seen appalling behaviour on-site and on our streets, and now we’re acting decisively and without hesitation,’ he said in a statement.
An amnesty was in place on Monday so that a limited number of workers can attend construction sites to shut them down safely.
The government said all sites will need to demonstrate compliance with the chief health officer’s directions prior to reopening, including the requirement for workers to show evidence of having had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before they return to work on October 5.
The Property Council of Australia said the shutdown would cost the economy $1.1 billion a week.
‘The majority of construction sites and construction workers are doing everything required of them to meet the highest standards of COVID safety and have done so since the pandemic started,’ executive director Danni Hunter said in a statement.
‘Closing the industry will prevent them going to work and getting paid and it will stall projects causing immensely costly delays, putting projects and Victorian jobs at risk.’
Opposition industry spokeswoman Bridget Vallence said the Andrews government must immediately reverse its ‘panicked decision’.
‘The Liberal Nationals condemn the violent protests, but the actions of a few should not be used as an excuse to shut down an entire industry, putting tens of thousands of people out of work,’ she said in a statement.
Union officials say Monday’s protesters were not all CFMEU members and blamed ‘neo-Nazi’s and right-wing extremists’ for hijacking the event.
The protest escalated when two union officials, including Victorian construction branch secretary John Sekta, came outside the Elizabeth Street office to speak to protesters just before midday.
Mr Setka was met with boos and insults from the crowd, while some protesters hurled bottles.
Violence escalated even further on Tuesday, with 2,000 protesters storming the West Gate Bridge, bringing traffic to a standstill and evening attacking cars
Organisers have vowed to host protests ‘every day’ until the mandatory vaccine mandate for tradies is dropped
Construction sites have been a place of high spread in the latest outbreak, forcing health officials to close tearooms last week.
The state’s roadmap out of lockdown was released on Sunday, detailing small changes to restrictions when 80 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have received a single vaccine dose.
Melbourne’s lockdown will remain in place until 70 per cent of Victorians are double-vaccinated, which is forecast for October 26.