Senate debates

Wednesday, 10 June 2020


COVID-19: Black Lives Matter Demonstrations

7:30 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A civil democratic society is a fragile flower which relies on people exercising the virtues of self-discipline and self-restraint—virtues which were disappointingly absent in the considerations of those organising the copycat marches last weekend. For the record, no-one in this place thinks other than that black lives matter, yet the narcissistic, self-indulgent, virtue-signalling, self-righteous protests last weekend are to be condemned given the current pandemic we face. In a democracy, we celebrate the freedom of people with all manner of views having the right to show their support for, or opposition to, a particular issue—subject, always, to consideration for their fellow citizens. At a time when we deny the bereaved from gathering to farewell a loved one, the faithful from attending worship services, and people from attending Anzac Day marches—when we commemorate those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we still have the freedom to demonstrate—it was as disappointing as it was predictable to witness the Left so defiantly virtue-signal at the expense of others. The chief medical officer urged people not to attend gatherings of any kind, including protests. The advice could not have been clearer or more urgent, unlike the purpose of, or need for, the protests. Ostensibly, people marched for black lives while knowing full well their actions could prejudice black lives the most. They put virtue-signalling before responsibility or reason. The left wing, who once agreed that a lockdown is the right move to minimise loss of life and also agreed that the risk lingers of an even deadlier second wave, cynically turned around stating that the protests must be managed with pragmatism and a sense of history. If the Left didn't have double standards, they'd have no standards at all.

Let me give voice to the vast bulk of Australians who are genuinely dismayed at the authorities who justified fining an old lady sitting on a park bench by herself and wearing a mask, as an egregious threat to public health, but who approved gatherings of thousands where social distancing was defiantly ignored. Whatever the motivation, be it weakness or wokeness, it definitely was not wisdom. Consistency or equality before the law are concepts that, seemingly, are no longer in vogue with some authorities. The message seems clear: if you want to gather, simply tell the authorities it's a protest. So protest your religious fervour by gathering in your church or chapel, protest your loved one's passing at a funeral, protest your commitment to citizenry at your local service club, or protest your solidarity with our veterans with an Anzac Day march—after all, ironically, they protected those protesters' freedoms to march. Have our authorities really descended to this? History will judge the protesters and the weak leadership that enabled them, as it will judge everything which is wrong with woke identity politics.

As to the issue of the protests, the rate of black deaths in custody in Australia is no greater than that of people of different colour. Yes, their incarceration rate is greater. Is this because of racial bias or because they've been convicted of crimes often perpetrated against their own?

A similar argument could be offered for white males, who are clearly overrepresented in jails in comparison to their female counterparts. Is this indicative of the systemic oppression of white males? I'd love to hear the Left argue that one. Of course not.

Setting up unsustainable arguments does not assist the cause. Failure to take responsibility for one's actions does not assist the cause. Rallying when everyone else is sacrificing by abiding by social-distancing requirements to protect the vulnerable, including our Indigenous brothers and sisters, does not assist the cause either. Racism in all its forms needs to be unequivocally condemned, as does the selfish virtue-signalling of the demonstrators last weekend.