Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has defended a Liberal campaign advertisement empathising with anti-lockdown protesters and attacking Premier Daniel Andrews for implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The advertisement, first published on social media on Saturday, asks viewers: “Remember when we hit the streets to protest against Daniel Andrews’ world record lockdowns? Remember when Andrews forced us to get the jab or lose our job? Now even our own unions are admitting he is a prick.”
Guy, speaking in Shepparton on Tuesday after pledging to fast-track 50,000 housing lots in regional Victoria to improve housing affordability, said he thought “a lot of Victorians” agreed with the advertisement.
“And I think a lot of Victorians are worried about the conduct of the premier and the way we had playgrounds shut, for instance, without any evidence provided, and I think a lot of Victorians do associate with that,” Guy said.
“Some may not, but many do and I think it’s reasonable to put forward. Simple as that.”
A CFMEU-authorised election poster spotted on a Melbourne building site.
Guy last year backed the Andrews government when it moved to mandate vaccines in Parliament and has previously distanced himself from some anti-vaccine protesters who waved signs calling for MPs to be hanged in 2021.
Although the advertisement appears critical of the government’s policy, Guy confirmed on Tuesday that his current policy on vaccines was to keep vaccine mandates in the health and aged care sectors. This policy is in lock-step with the government.
But after confirming that, he said: “We believe now that we’re moving on from the pandemic, we need to make sure that we properly manage it and that means no more lockdowns, no more mandates.”
Andrews on Tuesday said he would not discuss ads from other political parties, when asked about the Liberal ad pitched at construction workers, but added that “vaccines save lives”.
“They’re free, they’re safe, they are available. They weren’t always available. And because they weren’t available, we had to have really difficult times. We had to be locked down because we just didn’t have vaccines because some bright spark forgot to order them,” he said.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.Credit:Eddie Jim, Jason South
Guy said the advertisement “uses the union movement’s own words against the premier”.
“If I took umbrage at all the times the Labor Party gave out a sledge to me, I’d be permanently offended,” he said.
Posters from the Victorian branch of Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy union (CFMEU) on some Melbourne construction sites have branded Andrews a “prick” who was “delivering for construction workers”.
Construction workers were among a crowd of protesters who violently targeted the CFMEU headquarters on Elizabeth Street last year after the state government moved to restrict the industry to limit COVID-19 infections.
Labor has also published an attack ad targeting Guy, highlighting his relationship with Kew MP Tim Smith, who drunkenly crash his car last year. The ad is also critical of shadow treasurer David Davis.
On Monday, Guy pledged to fast-track the release of an additional 150,000 plots of land in outer suburban and regional areas to deal with population growth and dismissed warnings from academics that urban sprawl limited access to services and jobs.
Tuesday’s announcement promised 50,000 of the fast-tracked housing lots would be in regional Victoria.
Guy said this would help ease population pressures as Victorian “tree changers” moved away from metropolitan areas to the country in record numbers since COVID-19 hit.
Voters who spoke to The Age for its Victoria’s Agenda project said population growth in the state was among their top concerns, along with the rising cost of housing.
On the campaign trail in Geelong, Labor pledged to make car registration free for apprentices who drive to work. The change will cost about $10 million.
If re-elected, Labor will also establish an apprenticeship taskforce to look at stamping out bullying, ensuring timely payment of subcontractors and potentially punishing badly-behaving companies by prohibiting them from winning government contracts.
“So we’re going to take better care of them [apprentices],” Andrews said. “And we’re going to do some practical things to support them as they learn, as they get the skills they need for the job they want.”
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