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Solidarity and asking the right questions



2020 has been an incredibly tough year for many but especially, I’d argue, for those of us living in Melbourne and Victoria. It’s December and the warm weather is rolling in. We’re finally able to enjoy it — going outside to feel the rays on the skin while having a beer feels medicinal after such a year.

Main image: Daniel Andrews (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Yet unfortunately, rather than reminisce on what has passed, what has been achieved and this newfound ‘freedom’, the Australian right wing media is ensuring we are already having to look forward. Just the other day, for example, Sky News ran an inflammatory segment on how the Victorian Government’s decision to cancel the Melbourne Australia Day parade was ‘political correctness’ gone mad rather than a simple COVID safe measure.

I had to laugh. It’s not particularly funny that there are right wing media outlets trying to fan the flames of racism in a bid to maintain their hegemony, but it is funny that they suddenly care so much about going to the Australia Day parade when, for at least the past four years, the attendance numbers at this parade have been far outstripped by those who front up to the Invasion Day rally. To see the right scramble in a bid to ignore the obvious — that tides are turning and people are voting with their feet — is truly remarkable. Perhaps they’ll just have small socially distanced gatherings in their backyards of no more than 30 people instead?

It’s usually January that white blindfold think pieces around Invasion Day start, but this year they’re getting in early. I cannot help but think this has a lot to do with the right in Victoria feeling completely dishevelled and disempowered at this point in time and lashing out.

Yet it is strange that they feel as such. For months, I have seen them run ‘Dictator Dan’ columns whilst highlighting how their civil liberties have been encroached upon by the state government’s COVID measures. In a normal year, these same people tend to be in the press calling on more people to be policed or have their rights removed by the government. When the same thing happens to them, it suddenly becomes a problem.

When Aboriginal people are asking why it is they’re being incarcerated at exorbitant rates in this state or Sudanese kids are having the cops called on them because they’re having a gathering at the park, the right turn a blind eye. Their outrage was absent when entire housing commission towers got locked down with police stationed at every level to ensure residents didn’t so much as peak outside their door. They seemed almost cheerful that the Black Lives Matter rally organisers were slapped with fines and spent weeks trying erroneously to pin the blame on them for the second wave of the virus in Victoria. Yet when they too had to live under a curfew or risk a massive fine, it became a problem.


'At the end of the day, I think Victorians have a responsibility to pull together, cast a critical eye and ask some questions whilst working together to ensure we do not again end up in lockdown with hundreds of people losing their lives.'


Most know I have had many problems with how the Andrews government chose to manage this second wave, or how we came to have a second wave in the first place. I have watched the statistics come in highlighting that Aboriginal people and African Australian people were being fined at higher rates for non-compliance than everyone else. I watched the disgraceful videos of police arresting a pregnant woman for making a Facebook post, and rough handling another woman out of her car because she wasn’t wearing a mask. There were more videos I watched in horror.

I also watched in horror as Andrews increased not only the powers of police but also of the Public Safety Officers. Then there was the curfew, which was touted to go until the 26th October but was ended in September because not only did it become apparent to many that it was not a public health measure but rather a purely policing measure, but journalists also exposed that neither the Chief Medical Officer nor the Police Chief had recommended it. I still worry that all these increased policing powers haven’t disappeared. They are merely sitting there dormant in the event we have another wave and in the meantime, may be used against protesters and the like.

There was a real opportunity with this virus to build community and improve the lives of those most vulnerable yet as the government consistently focussed on individual punishment, this didn’t happen. The release of the report into the public housing lockdown this week details just how horrific some of these governmental decisions were. As we’ve emerged from lockdown, we have finally seen some tentative steps by the government regarding fixing some of the broader social issues, but there is a long way to go. How, for example, are we going to ensure that the care of the state’s elderly is not in the hands of private providers who profiteer at all costs whilst ensuring their staff are continuously kept on insecure and underpaid contracts?

It’s a fool’s dream, but I wonder if the right, now that they have had a taste of the lives they happily call for others to live on a daily basis, might wake up to some of the injustices and join the rest of us in the calls for correcting these wrongs. Will Rita Panahi move beyond tweeting about being locked down at 8pm to actually casting a valuable critical eye on policing and incarceration in this state? Will Andrew Bolt grow from his ridiculous column about moving to the ‘country’ to calling for better pay and conditions for those on the front lines of our COVID response? I doubt it, but who knows?

At the end of the day, I think Victorians have a responsibility to pull together, cast a critical eye and ask some questions, while working together to ensure we do not again end up in lockdown with hundreds of people losing their lives. I only hope those who now have a new understanding of what it’s like to have their individual rights encroached upon join the rest of us in this push.



Celeste LiddleCeleste Liddle is a trade unionist, a freelance opinion writer and social commentator. She blogs at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist.

Main image: Daniel Andrews (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Celeste Liddle, COVID-19, policing, Daniel Andrews, Sky News, Invasion Day



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Existing comments

I take it that when the author suggests "all (Victorians) pull together" that really means 1-2-3 pull Left, heave-ho. It's a complex article but my main concern is the use of the Victorian Ombudsman report as an authority, particularly after her press conference, inferring human rights abuses and her likening the outcome of the immediacy of the housing commission towers lockdown to the COVID19 virus itself...really? Do we have such short memories to forget that some persons in the tower complex tried to escape the lockdown and needed to be arrested? How effective would it have been in containment if they gave 24 hours prior notice? Let's also be mindful of the criticisms of the tower lockdown that it wasn't understood by many residents for a few days because of cultural and language barriers...forseeably then, how long would have been necessary to prepare and convey the appropriate communications to placate 3,000 individuals and their dietary and pharmaceutical needs prior to lockdown? The Ombudsman has criticized the action being based on stereotypes; the media criticism of the lockdown was the authorities failed to cater for individuals needs...go figure.

ray | 17 December 2020  

Talk about a rant. The State of Victoria is appalling and we the citizens have a right to call it out. From police corruption at the highest levels, to government not knowing whats going on, to Gargoulis in Bourke St, to the restauranteur at the other end of the same street, to branch stacking, to $140m worth of ''borrowing'' from the Reserve Bank of Japan which now owns much of our infrastructure, the belt and Roads out of China and all this woman can do is bag the right of centre. No mention of Dan's conversion therapy bans which is the most flagrant attack on the basic freedoms Australia has ever seen, to the DHHS reports etc etc, Celeste Liddle is typical green on the outside and red on the inside. Surely Eureka can do better than this dribble.

ROBERT H | 17 December 2020  

A confused and confusing article. Isn’t Dan Andrews, Victoria’s Premier, the darling of the Left? Yet Celeste begins her article with an attack on right-wing media, before going on to flay Andrews for his (admittedly) totalitarian decisions re the public housing towers? I wonder whether this Right/Left dichotomy is helpful at all. Right = Pure Evil? Left = The People’s Friend? Honey, it just ain’t so. We’re all a mixture, and ‘solidarity’ demands that we stop trying to separate. We need to do it differently now.

Joan Seymour | 18 December 2020  

" ... No mention of Dan's conversion therapy bans which is the most flagrant attack on the basic freedoms Australia has ever seen ..." Would Robert H like to unpack this a bit? Why does he think 'conversion therapy' is a good thing? What evidence is there for it? What evidence against? Who does he think is being disadvantaged by a ban? What would he prefer to have happen?

Matilda | 18 December 2020  

Wow what a divisive dialogue this COVID-19 is? Surely the major focus should be the cause of deaths of many Australians. It was interesting to note that one of the changes within the restructure of the Morrison government announced today was to elevate aged care & addit to the Portfolio of a senior Member of Cabinet (Greg Hunt)

Sue Swift | 18 December 2020  

The Ombudsman also stated that the actions of the Victorian government saved the lives of approximately 200 people

geoff | 18 December 2020  


EDITORS | 22 December 2020  

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