Budget week is looming, and Canberra has been warned to brace itself for renewed protests outside Parliament.
The last freedom protest to occupy the lawns around Parliament was one of the largest ever seen in the Capital. Police are worried that convoys will return to the area to once again demand an end to vaccine mandates and vaccine passports which continue to keep people locked out of work in many states.
Several weeks ago, Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan confirmed that police were predicting protest activity to coincide with the release of the Budget based on ‘significant’ intelligence-gathering.
Police are expecting Freedom protests to resume every weekend leading up to the Budget and culminate in a major protest event, as was seen earlier. The protests were described by police as being ‘largely peaceful’ with only small scuffles with police taking place.
Speaking of the last major protest in Canberra, Gaughan praised the need for monitoring of protest activity – a project which costs the taxpayer around $180 million every year.
“Without that intelligence (from the ACT Assembly committee inquiry) we would have been running blind. We also had our police colleagues actively monitoring the convoys as they came into the territory, and they passed information to us that gave us some idea of numbers.”
Gaughan also expressed his frustration at not being able to determine whether the planned protests surrounding the Budget would be similar to earlier Freedom protests.
“The thing that aggrieves me the most, we haven’t had the ability or the opportunity or the resources to do what I consider to be normal policing. It doesn’t just affect me, it affects my national colleagues, who have given me substantial resources to deal with these protests over the two-month period.”
The Budget will be handed down on March 29 by the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg.
It is expected to focus on the rising cost of living driven by global oil prices created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent European rush for oil. Frydenberg has also warned that the Budget will see a dramatic cut to pandemic spending and reveal the debt-peak.
“The time for large-scale economic stimulus is behind us,” said the Treasurer.