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COVID frustration bigger than protests: PM


By Andrew Brown in Canberra
Source: AAP

Scott Morrison has condemned violent pandemic protests outside Victoria’s parliament but reiterated his concerns with state-based vaccine mandates and COVID restrictions.

The prime minister came under fire for previous comments where he expressed sympathy with the Victorian protesters.

He later said frustration at pandemic restrictions was not limited to demonstrators, who had brought nooses and gallows to the protests.

“I completely and totally continue to denounce any violence, any threat, any intimidation – and any suggestion that I have not done that is completely false,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Friday.

“I don’t have sympathy for violence. I don’t have sympathy for intimidation or threats whatsoever.

“I have sympathies for Australians who have had a gutful of governments telling them what to do over the last two years.”

His previous comments had drawn criticism from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who has accused the prime minister of “double speaking to extremists”.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese urged the prime minister to unequivocally condemn the violent protests.

Mr Albanese also hit out at Mr Morrison’s comments urging an end to state-based vaccine mandates.

“The PM wants to claim credit at times for vaccination rates, but oppose all the measures that have been in place to lift those vaccination rates,” he told reporters.

“The prime minister of course failed to secure enough supply of vaccines, and then has gone about engaging in the word games he played yesterday.”

The government has previously criticised upcoming vaccine mandates to be imposed in Queensland, which would bar entry for the unvaccinated to retail and hospitality venues.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the mandate, to be implemented in December, would unfairly impact on regional areas.

“There are hospitality businesses that will go under because of the limited available staff when they come into effect,” Mr Littleproud said in a statement.

“They’ll be able to keep their doors open when they’re below 80 per cent vaccination levels in Queensland, but they could face closing them when we get to 80 per cent.”

The prime minister was also reunited on Friday with Jane Malysiak, the first person in Australia to receive the COVID vaccine, with the pair getting their COVID-19 booster shot together.

The latest vaccine figures have shown more than 127,000 doses were administered on Thursday.

84.6 per cent of over 16s have now been fully vaccinated while 91.2 per cent have received one dose.

Victoria has lifted almost all restrictions for the fully vaccinated as the state verges on a 90 per cent double-dose rate for people aged 12 and older.

It reported 1273 new cases and eight more deaths on Friday. NSW recorded 216 new infections and three additional deaths.

There were 17 more cases reported in the ACT on Friday.

Two new cases of COVID-19  were recorded in the Northern Territory.

Northern Territory officials confirmed a woman who illegally entered the Top End last month sparked the outbreak.

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