‘Fair enough': One political leader's message to anti-vaccine protesters

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A political leader has raised eyebrows after suggesting it was “fair enough” for anti-vaccine mandate protesters to rally against the Prime Minister.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr extended an olive branch to the protesters occupying Canberra, before going on to declare they were doing a “dismal” job.

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“I understand the protests are directed at the Prime Minister and that’s fair enough,” he said.

“There’s plenty of reasons to be unhappy with Scott Morrison at the moment.”

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‘Fair enough’: One political leader’s  message to anti-vaccine protesters

Camera IconACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it’s “fair enough” anti-vax protesters are unhappy with Scott Morrison. NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

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Canberra has had over a week of protests after hundreds of people converged on the capital to oppose vaccine mandates.

Crowds swelled to more than 1000 on Saturday as a planned march blocked the primary road to access Parliament House over Commonwealth Bridge.

Despite respecting the right to protest, Mr Barr said if the group was trying to win the support of Canberrans they were doing a “dismal” job of it.

‘Fair enough’: One political leader’s  message to anti-vaccine protesters

Camera IconMore than 1000 people marched towards Parliament House on Saturday, blocking the main road access. NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

‘Fair enough’: One political leader’s  message to anti-vaccine protesters

Camera IconMr Barr said while he respected the right to protest, the group was not winning over Canberrans. NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

“The message from these protesters is really not gelling with Canberrans who are educated and understand the value of vaccination,” he said.

“I think this is becoming a bit counter-productive for those protesters now – they’re creating more enemies than friends.”

Mr Barr pointed out that Canberra had one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 98.6 per cent of people over 12 already double dosed.

Canberrans have rallied behind businesses keeping staff and customers safe by abiding by vaccination rules, Mr Barr said.

Police had moved people on from government land as well as several people who were camping illegally in the parliamentary triangle, with police using capsicum spray and arresting several people.

‘Fair enough’: One political leader’s  message to anti-vaccine protesters

Camera IconTensions flared last week when police attempted to move on several people camping illegally outside the national library. NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Barr said a number of people paying to camp at Exhibition Park were entitled to do so but would have to move on within the next few days to make way for Lifeline’s annual book fair fundraising event, which begins on Friday.

“We understand there will be some protest activity today and tomorrow, but beyond that we would expect those people to move on,” he said.

Mr Barr also hit out at members of parliament who were egging on protesters, saying current and former members of the coalition should know better.

‘Fair enough’: One political leader’s  message to anti-vaccine protesters

Camera IconControversial politician Craig Kelly mingled with demonstrators on Saturday. Mr Barr said those egging on the protesters should know better. NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Outspoken Senator Gerard Rennick – who began withholding his vote last year in defiance of the government’s “vaccine mandate” – has vowed to continue to do so.

His actions could spark a major headache for the Morrison government, who are embarking on their last sitting week before a May election.

Senator Rennick – who is unvaccinated – is expected to cause chaos outside the party room as well, telling reporters he had spoken to a key protest figure and was considering meeting with the group in Canberra this week.

‘Fair enough’: One political leader’s  message to anti-vaccine protesters

Camera IconOutspoken Senator Gerard Rennick suggested Scott Morrison pay more attention to the demonstrators. NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

The retiring senator went on to say that Mr Morrison needed to pay more attention to the discontent of those unhappy with vaccine mandates, saying it could cost him the election.

“I think I am helping. I’m trying to get my colleagues to realise that for these people who have lost their jobs or had a vaccine injury, this next election will be a single issue election,” he said.

“This isn’t a political bubble issue … A lot of people don’t follow politics at all, right, but now we’ve made these people follow politics because they’ve lost their jobs, or they’ve been vaccine injured, or they don’t want their children vaccinated, or for the last two years they’ve been not allowed to see their grandchildren in a different state, or they’ve had issues with quarantine or something like that.

“We need to move on from these over-the-top restrictions … and get back to the old normal.”

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