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Taxpayers are set to foot an almost $2m bill for the police response to widespread anti-vaccination protests that shut down parts of Canberra earlier this year, AAP reports.

ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan said policing efforts cost $1.9m so far and the demonstrations are continuing.

Gaughan said the protests were expected to take place each weekend in the lead up to the federal budget on 29 March.

“We’ve been having protests since 12 December in the territory, and they really haven’t stopped,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“With the continuance of the protests, I anticipate numbers to increase.”

Discussions on whether the costs would be covered by Canberra taxpayers or nationally was yet to be determined.

Talks are set to take place between the ACT and federal governments on how costs would be handled.

Gaughan said about 500 protesters were still in Canberra and the surrounding region.

ACT police along with their NSW counterparts are monitoring the protests.

While police have described the demonstrations as largely peaceful, 23 arrests have been made.

The largest protest took place in February, when more than 10,000 people marched on Parliament House, demonstrating against Covid-19 vaccines and vaccination mandates.

Gaughan said it was not known whether upcoming demonstrations would be similar, but big gatherings are expected on federal budget night.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Protesters shut down major roads in Canberra during the demonstrations, targeting media organisations, along with Parliament House and city centres.

Large numbers camped out on the lawns outside the National Library before they were kicked out and moved to a campground in Canberra’s north, which became a makeshift headquarters.

A stand-off then ensued between protesters and police when they were told to leave because the site was needed for the Canberra Show.


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