Australian parliament’s Covid rules could block anti-vaccine protesters’ entry

Anti-vaccine protesters’ hopes of presenting a list of “grievances” to federal politicians may be scuppered by federal parliament’s Covid safety rules, with the prime minister not planning to meet a delegation supported by former Liberal MP Craig Kelly.

Kelly, the United Australia party leader, confirmed his party was providing free food to the protesters and considering bankrolling a $10,000 sound system for future rallies. Coalition MPs Gerard Rennick and George Christensen said they planned to join the anti-mandate protesters this week, while One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts gave a speech on parliament’s front lawn on Monday.

Large protests outside the building are expected on Tuesday as federal parliament resumes for the year.

Protests against vaccines and vaccine mandates continued in Canberra for a seventh day on Monday, with thousands of demonstrators camping across the city. Hundreds of protesters picketed the governor general’s residence, Government House,demanding he sack the federal government.

At Saturday’s large protest at Old Parliament House, a spokesperson said federal politicians would address further rallies in coming days, and flagged plans to enter Parliament House in an attempt to meet the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and opposition leader, Anthony Albanese.

Kelly on Monday told Guardian Australia he hoped to speak at a rally this week, and planned to sign “a small group” of protesters in to parliament on Tuesday, including one who on Saturday described the building as “satanic”. In response, Kelly said “everyone’s entitled to a bit of hyperbole”.

“The protesters are finalising a list of grievances or requests of the PM, basically that the PM ends the mandates,” Kelly said.

“The prime minister, the opposition leader, they’re both in this together.”

One group involved in the protests is asking supporters to sign an open letter which is critical of Covid vaccines, which they claim will be “presented to the prime minister on Tuesday”. The letter claims that protesters “will bring hundreds of thousands sending you into hiding and we will take this country back for the people”.

Kelly said he hadn’t yet approached Morrison or Albanese’s offices to request a meeting.

Morrison’s office said the PM had no plans to meet the protesters. Albanese’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

But Covid safety rules enacted by the presiding officers of Parliament House may derail Kelly’s plans first. A statement from 27 January advised that visitors can only be signed into the building for “essential meetings”, and that once a meeting is over, the guest must be escorted out again.

“If the visitor has a subsequent meeting with a different office, they must be signed in again at the security entrance by a representative of that other office,” the statement reads.

For a meeting with Morrison or Albanese, the protesters would have to be signed in specifically by their offices – an unlikely scenario. Face masks are also mandatory inside Parliament House.

In video from a protest campsite on Sunday night seen by Guardian Australia, Kelly told protesters he had “friendly donors” who could help pay for food trucks, coffee carts or ice-cream for the rallies. A protest leader also requested $10,000 for a sound system for further rallies.

Kelly said the UAP was putting on a free barbecue with drinks at the protesters’ campsite on Monday, and was “trying to organise” money for the sound system.

ACT police have warned that “protest activity is expected to increase in the coming days”, with more demonstrators expected to arrive in Canberra.

In an Instagram video, one of the protest leaders, Graham Hood – who referred to himself as a rally “spokesperson” – told supporters to remain peaceful, and that the forecourt area near Parliament House’s entrance was “out of bounds”.

“Stay on the grass … if you’ve got other intentions, then we don’t speak for you,” Hood said.

“Let’s keep it peaceful.”

Some protesters held a noisy demonstration in the forecourt, directly outside the front entrance to parliament, last Monday.

Rennick, who is withholding his vote from the Coalition in protest over vaccine mandates, told Guardian Australia he had been in contact with protest organisers and expected to make a speech at a rally some time this week.

Christensen, who has also opposed mandates and mask rules, attended the Old Parliament House protest on Saturday and wrote in his blog that he “will be joining protesters in Canberra … throughout the week.”

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