In any age, it is difficult and costly to push against the majority viewpoint on an issue and take a principled stand for what is right. This is all the more true in the era of covid, a time characterised by unprecedented levels of fear and polarisation.
Even as the international media has expressed shock and dismay at the overreach of Australia’s lockdown policies — and countless Australians themselves are crying out for relief — only a handful of our parliamentarians have stood with them.
Matt Canavan’s Speech
During the last week, two brilliant but brief speeches were given in Parliament House, Canberra, in defence of the freedoms that have long been the lifeblood of our nation.
One of these was by Queensland LNP Senator Matt Canavan. The main concern he expressed was that, while lockdowns cost little for the rich, they have consistently hurt the poor the most. Canavan highlights that though it has become fashionable for the well-to-do to defend lockdowns, this requires ignorance or disregard for the pain these policies have inflicted on working-class Australians. Here is the transcript of his powerful speech:
We see daily evidence of why these cruel, inequitable, selfish and hypocritical lockdowns must end. Lockdowns have long since gone past their used-by date.
This week, more small businesses have gone to the wall because we have made it a crime for people to work for themselves. A good mate of mine, Michale Trout, lost a brilliant tourism business in Cairns. A cafe owner in Sydney was locked out of his own business because he could not pay the rent. And there are many, many more heartbreaking stories.
Lockdowns have been a boon for big, online businesses, but they are the death knell for the small, family-run businesses that are the bedrock of our society.
End the lockdowns. Australia has not been a penal colony since 1869 and the free people of Australia have no desire to return to one! pic.twitter.com/lu7Ycc9IGZ
— Matthew Canavan (@mattjcan) August 25, 2021
Vaccine passports are now being imposed on our health, construction and service workers, while white-collar, high-paid professionals have no medical mandates imposed on them — and they get paid the same, all while working from home.
This is the way lockdowns work. The rich wrap themselves in cottonwool and retreat to homes with swimming pools, backyards, gyms and gardens. In the western suburbs, a single mum is jailed inside a two-bedroom home, all while trying to keep her three kids occupied, and losing her income and job.
Today we learned at a press conference, attended by about ten not especially socially-distanced journalists, that police are monitoring online church services, presumably in case the delta variant starts spreading on the ‘interwebs’. Yet tapings of the reality TV show ‘The Voice’ have got the green light to go ahead. And according to ‘the science’ of course, the delta variant cannot spread among politicians and the media.
The state has no role in a free society to monitor people’s religious activities. Our military should be defending our external borders, not patrolling our internal state boundaries. Every Australian child has the right to go to school, and everyday Australians should not be treated like prisoners, and be given permission from their wardens to spend one hour outside a day.
There is a rebellion brewing within Australia. We have not been a penal colony since 1869, and I know the free people of Australia have no desire to go back to one.
Matt Canavan has made similar remarks in the past, and also recently defended his stance during a hostile interview with RN Breakfast host Fran Kelly.
George Christensen’s Speech
The other speech made in Canberra this week was by Queensland MP George Christensen, Federal Member for Dawson, also from the Liberal National Party. He stood up in parliament to condemn the events in Melbourne over the weekend, where police fired rubber bullets and used other heavyhanded tactics against unarmed protesters. Christensen is likewise critical of the many policies that have taken away the dignity of working Australians. Here is his speech:
“We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.” That is the Diggers Oath, the oath taken by Australians in the gold mining town of Ballarat before they took a fateful stand against tyranny, in what we now know as the Eureka Stockade or the Eureka Rebellion.
This past weekend, men and women across this country took another stand against tyranny, and just like at Eureka, the authorities disgracefully responded with guns, and Australians were fired upon. So for them and many others across this nation, I want to say I stand truly by them to fight and defend their rights and liberties.
We have had enough of all of the restrictions. The restrictions haven’t stopped the virus, and they won’t stop the virus. Australia will have to live with Covid-19, rather than in constant fear of it. We the people want our freedom back.
We demand that there be no more lockdowns. We demand that there be no more curfews. We demand that there be no more mass mandates. We demand that there be no more state border closures. We demand that there be no more privacy invasion with mandatory QR code check-ins. We demand that there be no more discrimination between vaccinated and unvaccinated Australians.
We demand that our freedoms be restored. And I demand that peaceful protesters — patriotic, freedom-loving men and women — never, ever be fired upon in this country ever again.
George Christensen has previously addressed the House of Representatives to denounce the way fear has been leveraged to enact unjustified policies that have hurt Australia’s citizens. That speech can be seen here.
Remarkably, this week we have begun to witness a shift in messaging from the Prime Minister and state leaders. They have indicated that lockdowns are ultimately unsustainable, and that Australia will eventually need to learn to live with covid.
What this demonstrates is that those who are dismissed as being on the wrong side of history are, on the contrary, often ahead of the curve. In the weeks to come, it is likely that we will see other politicians receive praise for making the very same arguments that Canavan and Christensen have long been criticised for raising.
The lesson is clear: being right does not always mean being popular.