Melbourne is bracing for more bedlam today, with anti-lockdown protesters planning to hold another "freedom rally" outside the headquarters of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in the CBD.
The tension comes as the state records one Covid-related death and 603 new community cases today - Victoria's worst daily infection total in more than a year.
The city's A$22 billion construction industry has been shut down for two weeks after yesterday's protest against mandatory vaccinations for construction workers, which descended into a chaotic brawl.
Demonstrators threw projectiles at the union building, damaging it, and riot police were deployed, firing rubber bullets into the crowd.
CFMEU boss John Setka, who tried to calm the mob before retreating inside when violence erupted, said he believed the protest had been "hijacked" by "extreme organisations" opposed to Covid restrictions.
"Those drunken, fascist, un-Australian morons are the reason construction workers will be sitting at home and not getting paid for the next two weeks," he said.
Setka told the Herald Sun the violent protesters were "not really unionists" but "just the scum of the Earth".
Another demonstration is being planned for today. A poster being distributed on social media and via the Telegram app calls for protesters to gather at the headquarters at 10am. It's headlined "Victorian Workers Rally For Freedom".
"Rally will continue until demands are met. Bring your friends and family in support. Wear work gear. Bring food and drinks," it says.
The Victorian Government announced its decision to suspend the construction industry late on Monday night, citing the high transmission of Covid on construction sites and concerns about workers failing to comply with restrictions.
Health officials estimate building sites are the source of more than 10 per cent of all cases in Victoria.
Only critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, will be exempt from the shutdown. As a result, about 300,000 people will be out of work, and the sector will lose almost half a billion dollars a day.
State Premier Daniel Andrews slammed yesterday's protest, telling rallygoers their tactics would "not work".
The Victorian opposition has called on the Government to reverse its "panicked decision" to shut down the construction sector.
"The Liberal Nationals condemn the violent protests, but the actions of a few should not be used as an excuse to shut down an entire industry, putting tens of thousands of people out of work," said industry spokeswoman Bridget Vallence.
Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, condemned the violence.
"The ACTU condemns the violent attack on the CFMEU office orchestrated by violent right-wing extremists and anti-vaccination activists," she said.
During the rally, workers were heard chanting in opposition to the Covid vaccines. Others referred to the pandemic as a "conspiracy".
Setka copped abuse from the crowd as he tried to calm the situation.
"People are allowed to express their opinions and you've got to take it on the chin sometimes. People get emotional, I understand that," he said afterwards.
"But when you go out of your way to address people and they just talk over you, yelling and screaming, and throw projectiles and injure people and smash property, it's just absolutely unacceptable."
New South Wales
NSW has recorded another 1000-plus Covid day, with 1022 people testing positive and 10 people losing their lives to the virus.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard praised the community for its high vaccination rates, with more than 82 per cent of the state now receiving a first dose and 53 per cent of people over the age of 16 fully vaccinated.
There are 1266 people with Covid in hospital and 244 are intensive care. Of those, 118 are on ventilators.
Of the 244 people in the ICU, 181 have not been vaccinated, 54 have received one dose of the vaccine and nine people have received two doses.
Tweed and Byron to go into snap lockdown
The Tweed and Byron regions will go into a snap seven-day lockdown from 5pm today due to a cluster of coronavirus cases.
A positive Covid case, who was later revealed to be an authorised worker, was infectious in the Ballina, Byron and Tweed community between September 18 and 20.
"As I understand it's somebody who has travelled into the area with an appropriate permit and had actually had both a rapid antigen test and a PCR test," Hazzard said.
"It's one of the problems ... rapid antigen tests have a certain degree of efficiency and they don't always show up and in this case it didn't.
"A PCR test then showed later that there was positive case which is good. The person did what was needed."