Protests & threats of violence against politicians over Victoria's proposed pandemic bill
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
It's expected that protests will again be seen this Saturday.
Tens of thousands of protesters swarmed the nation’s capital cities on Saturday, in the largest protests of the Pandemic so far.
So-called ‘Freedom Rally’ protesters railed against vaccine mandates, COVID restrictions and Victoria’s controversial proposed pandemic bill.
They brandished the Eureka, Trump and Australian flags - as well as QAnon-inspired placards.
In a counter-protest, an “anti-fascist” and “anti-racist” group inveighed against anti-vaccination sentiment.
Amid fears the diametrically-opposed demonstrations could clash, police made their presence felt.
However, the protests were overwhelmingly peaceful, with zero incidents reported in Sydney.
It was Melbourne which saw the largest crowds on Saturday, where ‘Kill the Bill’ protests have raged for weeks.
Nooses were hung and gallows hauled before the State Parliament last week, during nighttime demonstrations in the CBD.
Death threats were also made against Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, as some protesters ramped up their violent rhetoric.
“I look forward to the day you dance on the end of a rope you evil little [inaudible],” one protester said of the Premier.
“We have seen extremists, rabid anti-vaxxers and others making all sorts of threats, threats against me, my wife and my kids,” Andrews told Channel 9.
The source of their fury is Victoria’s pandemic management bill, which - if passed - would enable the Premier to make a pandemic declaration. This was once the purview of the Chief Health Officer.
In its explanatory memorandum, the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment Bill is described as “important to democracy” with “appropriate checks and balances”.
It promises greater transparency, stipulating that the Chief Health Officer’s medical advice must be made public.
Critics - including those in the legal profession - say the bill is a “power grab”.
Some protestors are threatening any politician who dares to support it.
Under a pandemic declaration - made the Premier - the Health Minister can impose pandemic orders - or restrictions.
Critics have raised the question - when would the pandemic declaration end, and if the virus becomes endemic, does the Victorian Government retain the power to rule by decree?
Disgraced former minister Adem Somyurek says the bill “gives the government too much power”.
Somyurek’s decision to vote against the legislation has left the Andrews government scrambling to find one more crossbench member to support the bill.
The bill will replace Victoria's State of Emergency power, which is set to expire on December 16.
Right now the bill is stalled in the upper house. If it is not passed by December 16, the government will be unable to enforce COVID-19 restrictions like mask-wearing.
As the state government pushes to get the controversial legislation approved, Victorian MPs in support of the bill have been subject to a new wave of threats and intimidation.
Animal Justice MP Andrew Meddick says “my worst fears turned into reality”, after a man threw a spray can at the back of his daughter’s head, landing her in hospital.
It’s believed Meddick’s daughter was spray-painting over an anti-vaccination poster when the alleged attacker started arguing with her.
As she tried to flee, police say she threw the spray can towards him, before the alleged attacker hurled it at the back of her head.
Video shows the moment she sought refuge in a nearby business.
A police investigation is ongoing, but Meddick said he “has reason to believe” the attack was related to his support for the pandemic bill.
Scott Morrison took to Twitter to condemn the violence, calling it “an attack on our very democracy.”
But this incident doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
Last week, WA Premier Mark McGowan was forced to close his electoral office after anti-vax extremists made disturbing threats against his staff.
“There’s been death threats, there’s been threats to rape my staff, there’s been people threatening to bomb my office,” he said on Wednesday.
“This is unbelievable conduct.”
Central Queensland Labor MP Brittany Lauga says she was sent threats of terrorism, extremism and violence. Other MPs and local doctors also reportedly received similar threatening messages.
While there’s not been a life threatening attack against an Australian politician in recent years, threats are common.
Pandemic frustrations, increased political polarisation, and a rise in extremist rhetoric on social media and from politicians have all been cited as potential catalysts.
The disturbing threats towards Mark McGowan’s office are believed to be related to the state government’s wide-ranging vaccine mandate.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly called for an end to vaccine mandates, lamenting big government.
He said last week that it was time for “Australians to take their lives back”.
“We aren’t in favour of mandatory vaccines imposed by the government.”
“Businesses can make their own choices on the law but we aren’t about telling Australians what to do,” the PM said.
State leaders have accused him of appealing to the anti-vax vote, as tensions flare in the latest war of words.
“I'm committed to doing what has to be done. I’m not about chasing, through doublespeak, the votes of extremists or their preferences.” Dan Andrews said.
Watch our full report here.
(Originally aired here on November 23, 2021)