The massive anti-lockdown protests in Sydney and Melbourne over the weekend have sparked backlash from the general public.
However others have argued the protests are at least partly the result of paltry income support as millions of Australians are left without the same level of economic support as last year.
Hundreds of fines have been issued to those who attended the anti-lockdown protests across Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday and Sunday respectively, including ‘Tiktok guy’ Jon-Bernard Kairouz who was seen giving a speech at the protest.
Unmasked demonstrators disrupted traffic in the CBDs of Australia’s two biggest cities and were seen clashing with police.
The public has been angered by the blatant disregard for lockdown restrictions, with some calling the protestors ‘COVIDIOTS’ on Twitter.
“Maybe the government should find out everyone involved in the protect [sic] and cancel their Medicare and cancel their welfare payments so [the] rest of us aren’t required to pay for them,” one tweeted.
Another tweeted directly at NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and called for her to “cancel the covid payments of all the people fined and reported at the anti lockdown protest in Sydney”.
“They don’t need or deserve them.”
Responding to the protests on Sunday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the anti-lockdown protests “broke my heart” and said she was “utterly disgusted”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also condemned the Sydney and Melbourne protests as a “self-defeating” and “very selfish act” that would ultimately prolong the lockdowns even further.
“It achieves no purpose," he said on Sunday. “They're the ones who are bringing an end to the lockdown sooner.
“Not those who are putting themselves at risk, those around them at risk, particularly the police at risk. That was a very selfish act and it offended many fellow Sydneysiders.”
WATCH BELOW: Australians may face longer lockdowns after protests
Calls for Centrelink payments to be increased
However, many on Twitter also pointed out that the high turnout at the protests was likely fuelled by the absence of further economic support by way of JobKeeper or the Coronavirus Supplement for welfare recipients.
“I’m against the anti-lockdown protests, I’m really worried they’ll put us further behind - buuuut - I do think they’re at least partly driven by a lack of government financial support,” said Australian comedian and actor Luke McGregor in a series of tweets.
“You can’t switch off people’s livelihoods and expect them not to be upset about it.
“Heck you could even threaten to take away JobKeeper if someone is caught at an anti-lockdown rally. I guess my main point is I’m seeing a lot of sticks but not [a lot of] carrots to encourage behaviour that will help us beat this virus.”
Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union spokesperson Jeremy Poxon also noted there were no protests last year when the Coronavirus Supplement was in place.
Yes, the Sydney anti-vax protestors are dangerous maniacs; however, notice that they didn't erupt in such fervour last year, while the Covid supplement of #80aDay was in place? Proper income support + government actually taking care of its citizens, curbs this dangerous extremism
— “vile jerry” (@JeremyPoxon) July 24, 2021
Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) has long called for welfare recipients, who are excluded from the $375 and $600 disaster payments, to have their levels of government support increased.
“This is a public health issue – people can’t stay home in lockdown if they lose their home because they cannot afford to keep it,” said ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie.
“We need to immediately extend Disaster Payments to lift all incomes up to $600 per week, especially for those renting.
“When Federal Parliament returns, we need to fix social security arrangements for lockdowns to deliver an income floor for all. This would ensure everyone can cover the basics, including a roof overhead, to keep everyone safe.”