The Politics    Wednesday, September 22, 2021


By Nick Feik

Police watch protesters at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Police watch protesters at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, Wednesday, September 22, 2021. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Melbourne’s earthquake presages faultlines in the Coalition over ongoing lockdown protests

There was an earthquake in Melbourne this morning, in case you haven’t heard, so it was only a matter of time before someone linked it to Premier Daniel Andrews. When “Thanks Dan” started trending on Twitter, most users were joking. But not Liberal state MP and shadow attorney-general Tim Smith. “Wonder how they clean up the earthquake tremor mess and repair buildings now that Andrews has closed the construction industry?” Smith tweeted. Thankfully the damage to buildings was only minor, so it’s an irrelevant point (and no doubt emergency exemptions will be made anyway), which made it right on brand for the state Opposition. It was much less funny than Darren Levin’s contribution, though: “Dan Andreas Fault”.

The aftershocks from yesterday’s protests continued elsewhere too. The protests also resumed, albeit with fewer numbers. No doubt some will blame the earthquake, but the fact that police started arresting every protester that turned up early this morning probably had something to do with it. As did union threats to expel protesters from worksites.

There were other reasons. SBS journalist Eden Gillespie reported this morning on “speculation about a prominent livestreamer (who reached 70k viewers yesterday) being arrested”. The claim had spread online “like wildfire”. A key organiser of the rallies soon dismissed the claim, though, saying that the livestreamer wasn’t there this morning because he was too “unfit” and his “knees are cooked”. The livestreamer was apparently complaining about the long walk yesterday: “He’d been livestreaming for hours.” Real life can be tough for keyboard warriors.

Speaking of, the protests also opened up faultlines in the National Party. Former leader Michael McCormack and other MPs took aim at colleague George Christensen, accusing him of stirring up violent mobs at anti-lockdown protests. Christensen had earlier praised the protesters as “freedom fighters” and called for the arrest of two Victoria Police officers for using “excessive force” at protests on the weekend. McCormack also criticised his successor, Barnaby Joyce, for not publicly condemning Christensen’s comments when given the opportunity.

“If the leader is incapable, unwilling or unable to call him out, then I am going to,” McCormack said, in comments that could easily apply to the PM. The Nine report also quoted McCormack as saying that Christensen had become the “keyboard warrior” he had long rallied against.

Unsurprisingly, libertarian fool Senator Malcolm Roberts also put himself on the side of the protesters, and his statements were as confused as his position on most things: “The Victorian Government has decided they needed to crush working class people”, he said, adding in an interview that he wanted to thank the protesters for standing up to a “dictator like Dan Andrews”. In Roberts’ One-Nation-land, the relative handful of idiots marching against the union’s wishes are “the working-class people”, and the wannabe fascist dictator is not the guy literally making a Nazi salute in the street, but Premier Andrews.

The more surprising and depressing messages about the protests came from federal Liberal MPs such as Fiona Martin and minister Alan Tudge. Martin blamed Labor for the protests: “That’s what happens when you play politics,” she tweeted (no, I don’t understand it either). And Tudge, the federal minister for education, posted: “I do not recognise our city or state anymore. The normal democratic checks and balances are gone … Whole industries, like construction, shut down at random.” Random? Has he not heard about the global pandemic? Why is he siding with violent protesters in the name of “normal democratic checks and balances”? And how do these kinds of comments reinforce the much-touted staged re-openings of the National Plan? Honestly. It is extremely rich for a minister in this government to bellyache about “basic freedoms denied”, when denying basic freedoms to select groups is the Coalition’s stock in trade. And it was a far cry from Tudge’s response to climate change protesters in 2019, whom he called ferals who deserved the “full force of the law”.

It’s easy to mock Coalition politicians and their mini-me colleagues – it really is – but it is seriously alarming to see them siding with literal fascists. Make no mistake, these Coalition MPs are not supporting safe and peaceful protesters. And they’re certainly not supporting unionists’ right to protest. They are supporting mobs of angry men whose aim is to undermine the health orders that everyone else is abiding by.  

At the time of writing, the protesters were gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance, shouting “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” and “Fuck the jab!” The only thing more inappropriate would have been a repeat of the Nazi salutes. 

I wonder what the old diggers would have made of these heroes.

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

“China will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping used his address at the United Nations General Assembly to add to his nation’s pledges to deal with climate change. The announcement followed similar moves from South Korea and Japan earlier this year.

“A new low for workers in the militant union movement.”

Despite the overwhelming and continued condemnation of recent protests by union leaders, The Australian nevertheless chooses to highlight the links of the few members who have been acting against the wishes of their unions.

Why Labor is sending Keneally to Cabramatta
The move to parachute Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally into the western Sydney seat of Fowler has exposed the rifts and rivalries within the party. But it’s also raised a bigger question, is Labor doing enough to make sure its candidates actually represent their voters?

Around 20 per cent of carbon credits created under the federal government’s main climate change policy do not represent real cuts in carbon dioxide and are essentially “junk”, a new report by the Australian Conservation Foundation and The Australia Institute says.

“They’re offering incentives we’ve never seen before...”

The NSW government is turning to nurses in other states and territories and offering weekly bonuses of up to $500 and travel costs – including accommodation, meals and hotel quarantine if required – to help cope with the state’s COVID-related surge in hospital admissions.

The list

“There’s no better time to explore that weird poorly lit native forest on your doorstep. Give yourself a digital detox by reconnecting with the power of nature. Urban bushland is not just a place for recalcitrant tearaways to rut themselves senseless – it’s for all of us!”

“If political impact is measured by how hard your opponents go after you, McManus made one of the bigger entrances to public life. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull christened her ‘Sally McManarchist’ in Question Time, and Christopher Pyne labelled her 7.30 comments ‘anarcho-Marxist claptrap’. Columnists solemnly declared the interview to be a disastrous start to her tenure. Labor leader Bill Shorten rushed to distance himself from her comments even as Greens leader Richard Di Natale declared, ‘Good on her.’”

“Paramedics in New South Wales are routinely being sent to treat COVID-19 patients being cared for at home who have unreported blood oxygen readings at critically low levels because state authorities have failed to deliver on a promise to distribute crucial monitoring devices. A NSW Health policy document governing the care of all Covid-19 positive cases in the community clearly states that ‘all patients must be provided with a pulse oximeter’ because ‘the Delta variant may be associated with rapid deterioration’.” 

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.


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