MP George Christensen attended Saturday’s anti-lockdown rally, and his participation has been defended by Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce.
A photo uploaded to Facebook shows Christensen, the Member for Dawson at the protest, standing near a sign from a QAnon supporter that read “remove the pedophiles (sic) from power!“.
Approached by the ABC, Christensen asserted: “The rally had nothing to do with QAnon and neither do I“.
His appearance at the rally is nevertheless controversial. Importantly, the rally attended by Christensen in Mackay, QLD, was legal as there were no public health orders in that state.
However, Christensen did express support for the rallies in Melbourne and Sydney, which were in breach of COVID-19 restrictions.
Many are devastated by the mass crowds in Melbourne and Sydney, which inevitably increased the risk of transmission, despite the hurt of families who have lost loved ones to the highly contagious Delta variant in those states.
A video uploaded to Christensen’s FaceBook page shows the MP speaking with a megaphone to protesters.
“(T)he fake news media streams fear porn into our homes everyday, into our television and the newspaper” he says.
— Craig Hill (@CraigHill01) July 25, 2021
Though figures of Australian politics have stated they disagree with Christensen, they have defended his right of free speech.
Scott Morrison spoke to reporters in Canberra about Christensen’s involvement. He described the Melbourne and Sydney protests as “selfish” and “self-defeating“.
However, in regard to Christensen he said: “as for other parts of the country that aren’t in lockdown, well, there’s such a thing as free speech”.
Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce recently discussed Christensen’s actions with Fran Kelly on ABC Radio.
Kelly questioned Joyce: “Can we afford to have a member of Parliament endorsing behaviour that could lead to even more infections and even longer lockdowns?“.
Joyce replied: “Everybody has liberty to say what they want. What do you want me to do, to go up there without knowing he was going to say it, to tackle him? Would that actually assist the process by reinforcing the sense you don’t have the liberty to say what you like?”
Hey @Barnaby_Joyce, the thing about free speech is that it also gives you the right to condemn George Christensen’s attendance and promotion of anti-lockdown protests.
Odd that you won’t.
— Dr Tim is fully vaccinated against the Covid (@timsenior) July 25, 2021
He nevertheless asserted that his opinion was that restrictions were necessary to stop the virus. “If you go down a path of a free for all … a virus is going to spread and people are going to die, therefore you have a responsibility to people’s lives“, he said.
The responses to Christensen’s involvement highlight the difficult balancing act between protection of free speech, and the power and potential harm of political influence.