“What we saw in Sydney yesterday. Of course, it was selfish. It was also self-defeating. It achieves no purpose,” said prime minister Scott Morrison in response to a question about Sydney’s 24 July anti-lockdown protest.
“It will not end the lockdown sooner. It will only risk the lockdowns running further.”
An estimated 7,000 Sydneysiders breached the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions to march through the centre of the Sydney CBD to protest the shutting down of much of the state’s economy, as well as having been confined to their homes for the best part of a month now.
However, when it came to answer the part of the question addressing the fact that Liberal Nationals MP George Christensen was at a related protest in Queensland, while former Liberal and current independent MP Craig Kelly publicly supported the demonstrations, the PM changed his tune.
“As for other parts of the country that aren’t in lockdown, well, there is such a thing as free speech, and I’m not about to be imposing those sorts of restrictions on people’s free speech,” Morrison said, adding that the nature of the rally in Queensland was very different to the one in NSW.
Weak and confusing
The freedom/anti-lockdown rallies that took place across Australia last Saturday were part of an internationally staged World Rally for Freedom Day, which saw global demonstrations against the restrictions that nations have placed upon their citizens since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.
Christensen posted his speech at the Mackay Freedom rally online. The federal member is seen to pose the question as to when the government will stop the restrictions and when the mainstream media will stop spreading “fear porn” about the virus.
The Liberal Nationals politician further rubbished the potential of the vaccine to work in protecting against virus transmission.
So, for the prime minister to attempt to condemn so-called freedom marchers and in the next breath uphold the right of his fellow party member to continue to speak out against the very measures he is advising the public to abide by is not only confusing, but it’s a weak political move.
The turnouts at both the Sydney and Melbourne anti-lockdown rallies reveal that many citizens don’t believe the pandemic restrictions are warranted, so for Morrison not to rebuke one of his own for vocally disseminating such ideas shows he’s bereft of the skills his office requires right now.
A flaky approach
“We should not comply,” continues Christensen during his anti-lockdown rant. “At some point in this fight, civil disobedience is going to have to be done. And we are going to have to prepare for that at some stage, as I see that day coming very soon.”
So, here we have one of the PM’s fellow Coalition members on the street inciting citizens to disobey public health orders, and all the leader of the country can say about it is the MP has a right to do so, during a national crisis that sees the two largest economic centres of the country at a standstill.
Greater Sydney has a rising issue with COVID cases. The state government, which is run by the PM’s own party, is having trouble with residents complying with the lockdown orders it’s imposed.
Yet, Morrison is not only happy for a Coalition MP to suggest noncompliance, but he’s further supporting Christensen’s right to question the science behind the approach of his own government while the most significant crisis the nation has seen during his lifetime unfolds.
Receive all of our articles weekly
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.