The once much-maligned ex-prime-minister of Australia, Mr Tony Abbott, speaking on the Institute of Public Affairs Australia’s Heartland podcast, said that although “obviously people shouldn’t break the law”, he believed the protesters were within their rights to express their opposition to “unreasonable” health restrictions.

“You’ve got people there at the Shrine of Remembrance, with flags, with placards, with the best of my observation they were simply there to make a point,” he said.

“They weren’t being violent, they weren’t being vandalistic, they weren’t being destructive.

“Then you had the Victorian police being lined up like storm troopers, eventually charging them with rubber bullets and teargas.

“Now I don’t think you can say all the right was on one side there.”

Mr Abbott said he believed the group – which Labor and CFMEU boss John Setka branded as neo-Nazis and not genuine construction workers – were people who were “sick and tired” of arduous health orders.

“I saw a lot of people who were maybe a little misguided, maybe a little over the top, but I saw a lot of people who are sick and tired of restrictions, which frankly are now becoming absolutely unreasonable,” he said