Restrictions tightened after ugly protest scenes: 'APPALLING BEHAVIOUR'

·4-min read

The Victorian Government will shut down the construction industry in locked down areas following Monday's violent protest outside a union's headquarters in Melbourne.

The chaotic and violent protest outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) office on Monday saw people in high-vis chanting and damaging property.

Videos online show people chanting “f*** the jab” and “freedom”, the CFMEU's window was smashed and at one point, a dog was kicked by a protester.

The protest, which opposed every construction worker having at least one Covid vaccine dose before returning to work, has resulted in the construction industry being shut for two weeks.

A protest outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters turned violent on Monday. Source: AAP
A protest outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters turned violent on Monday. Source: AAP

The shutdown from 11.59pm for metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire was confirmed by Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas late on Monday.

During the two-week shutdown, only critical infrastructure, including hospitals and ongoing level crossing removal works will continue, so the workforce has time to get vaccinated.

"We've been clear: if you don't follow the rules, we won't hesitate to take action - we have seen widespread non-compliance across the industry and that's why we're taking necessary steps to protect every single Victorian," Mr Pallas said in a statement.

"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."

The front of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters was damaged at the protest on Monday. Source: AAP
The front of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters was damaged at the protest on Monday. Source: AAP

All job sites will have to demonstrate compliance with the Chief Health Officer's direction before reopening, including proof of having one dose.

Shadow industry minister Bridget Vallence said the Andrews government must immediately reverse its "panicked decision" to shut down construction.

"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.

Shorten slams 'man baby Nazi's'

Following the protest, union officials said those at the demonstration were not CFMEU members, but were actually "neo-Nazi's and right wing extremists".

Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten said there is a small group of hard right extremists who are trying to weaponise the Covid-19 lockdown.

"I can understand that there are some genuine people who don't want vaccinations, I can understand that there are many people frustrated by lock downs," Mr Shorten told the Today show. 

"According to my sources I spoke to yesterday, who were imperilled by this mob, just like the police were the previous day, there is a network of hard right man baby Nazis, you know, just people who just want to cause trouble these, man babies, they want to complain about the vaccination."

However, Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he does not believe many of the people at the protest would be influenced by anti-vaxxers, while condemning the protests.

"I think they have got their own ideas in their own mind,"Mr Joyce told the ABC.

"What we've got to say to anyone - any person - violence and those sort of actions in a public space just scare people and you lose support."

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.

Construction workers clashed with unionists at a protest at Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters in Melbourne. Source: AAP
Construction workers clashed with unionists at a protest at Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters in Melbourne. Source: AAP

"Please calm down. Can you at least give me the respect to talk? We're not the enemy, I don't know what you have heard," he told protesters.

"I have never, ever said I support mandatory vaccination."

Once Mr Setka went back inside, the protesters smashed a glass door to the building.

Some said they would come to the CFMEU office every day until the union bows to their demands.

Most of the crowd was dispersed by police who used rubber bullets and pepper spray to control the mob.

Mr Setka told the Today Show there were a 'sprinkling" of construction workers who were part of the union and said he was blindsided by the industry shutdown.

"Thanks to these morons, 300,000 Victorians are sitting at home for at least the next couple of weeks," he said.

With AAP

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