Heads of state around the globe condemned Trump last week, over inciting his supporters to attempt a coup at Capitol Hill. Germany’s Angela Merkel said he’d “prepared the atmosphere” for violence. While the UK’s Boris Johnson described his provocations as “completely wrong”.
The insurgents stormed the Capitol building on 6 January. Their aim was to prevent US congress from formalising the Biden presidential victory. And with insider assistance from politicians and law enforcement, Trump supporters briefly took the building, with five people killed during the unrest.
Our PM, however, failed to condemn the president’s overt sanctioning of the riot. On the day following, Morrison described the takeover as “terribly distressing”. Yet when pressed to censure Trump he refused, going on to note the president belatedly telling rioters to go home as a positive.
Of course, Scott had received the ‘Legion of Merit’ military medal from the outgoing president just days prior to the event, so criticising the US head of state – whom he has only had praise for – might have been a somewhat upsetting prospect for the prime minister to contemplate.
All the president’s men
But it’s when you consider that it’s the entire Morrison government that’s refused to directly censure Trump’s actions in the lead up to the coup attempt, that this lack of condemnation reads like implicit support for the billionaire president.
Nationals leader Michael McCormick took over the show last week. As acting PM, he continued the Coalition line on refusing to rebuke Trump, as he simply shrugged off the Capitol Hill riot as “unfortunate”, before deflecting from the matter by partaking in a bit of race-baiting of his own.
McCormick also rallied against Twitter’s banning of Donald Trump from its social media platform for his repeated encouragement of the rioters as censorship.
And party mate Dave Sharma went one further. He wrote an opinion piece for the Herald, in which he listed numerous examples of the president’s behaviour that had “stirred his supporters into a fury”, and the member for Wentworth then went on to decry the ban as “chilling”.
Could it happen here?
Taking things a step further, Liberal Nationals MP George Christensen got on the voter fraud bandwagon, claiming that “dodgy votes” had led to the Biden victory. When questioned about this, the PM retorted that Australia is a “free country”, and people had a right to “free speech”.
And this is where the government’s tacit approval begins to get even more disturbing. Christensen has long been known to support grassroots far-right elements over here. Back in 2015, he appeared before a Reclaim Australia rally, declaring that our nation is “at war with radical Islam”.
Our government’s refusal to condemn Trump for stoking the flames of the coup not only appears as support for the US president, but it can be read as approval for the far-right movement, which may serve to embolden local white supremacists that have become more pronounced over recent years.
And claims that the scenes in Washington couldn’t be repeated in a nation such as ours quickly ring false when remembering the 2005 Cronulla riots or further, when it’s taken into account that months before the trouble at Capitol Hill, many would have sworn the same about the US.
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Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.