Premier Daniel Andrews accuses opposition leader Matthew Guy of being “beholden to neo-Nazis”

November 17, 2021 by AAP
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The “small, ugly mob” of protesters camped on the steps of Victorian parliament will not stop the government’s proposed pandemic laws, Premier Daniel Andrews says.


But the possible return of former Labor MP Adem Somyurek to parliament could derail the passage of the bill through the upper house when debate resumes on Thursday.

The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill shifts the power to declare a pandemic and impose public health restrictions from the chief health officer to the premier and health minister.

The bill has become a lightning rod for anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination groups, who have vowed to occupy the steps of parliament as it is debated this week.

Protesters on Monday night gathered around a wooden gallows chanting “freedom”, “traitor”, “kill Dan Andrews” and “hang Dan Andrews”, while an inflatable Daniel Andrews doll was thrown onto the structure.

Another protester was applauded by the crowd on Tuesday after she called for politicians to “dance on the end of a rope”.

Mr Andrews said he would not be distracted by the protesters, some of whom have threatened his wife and children.

“I will not be deterred from the work I’m doing to keep every family safe,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“It is so unfair for a small, ugly mob to be taking attention away from the more than 90 per cent of Victorians who have had a first dose and will soon have had a second dose. That’s where our focus should be today.”

Mr Andrews described the protesters’ behaviour as “appalling”, “disgusting” and “potentially criminal”, though Victoria Police are yet to receive a complaint.

In a heated question time, the premier repeatedly accused Opposition Leader Matthew Guy of “sucking up to extremists”, and being “beholden to anti-vaxxers” and “Nazis and neo-Nazis”.

Mr Guy has condemned the protesters’ behaviour but won’t stop his MPs from attending and speaking to the crowd.

“Not every single person out there is saying silly things, the majority have not,” he told reporters outside parliament, accusing the premier of seeking to divide Victorians.

Liberal MP Roma Britnell met protesters on Tuesday, including one she described as a “close friend”.

“These people have genuine concerns. They have the right to be listened to,” she said.

The government has been confident the bill will pass after making amendments to secure the support of upper house crossbenchers – the Greens’ Samantha Ratnam, Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick.

But Mr Somyurek’s potential return to parliament could derail the passage of the bill.

Mr Somyurek, who quit the party before he was expelled for leading a widespread branch-stacking operation, has not been at parliament since December 2020 and was suspended last month after he failed to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

However, the clerk o f the Legislative Council on Wednesday advised upper house MPs that Mr Somyurek now “complies with the order and is no longer suspended”.

It’s not yet known whether Mr Somyurek intends to vote on the bill. If he were to vote against it, it would result in a tie and would mean the bill would have to be reintroduced in parliament’s lower house.

Victoria’s current state of emergency expires on December 15 and cannot be extended.

While legal groups have been pushing for a replacement to the emergency powers, some have raised concerns the proposed pandemic laws lack independent oversight.

Mr Andrews said the government did not have the “luxury” to spend “six months to get everybody’s agreement on every single issue” in the bill.

Mr Somyurek has been contacted for comment.

JCCV President Daniel Aghion told J-Wire: “The recent debate in Victoria about pandemic health management, has descended into street protests that deploy Hitler imagery and claims and responses that invoke analogies to Nazism.

A civil society with a robust democracy permits sensible debate about proposed laws. What a civil society ought not to permit, is a misuse of a unique and chilling experience in human history to make a debating point. Pandemic management in Victoria is not genocide. It is in no way associated with or reflective of the Holocaust. To suggest otherwise is inappropriate and wrong, and misunderstands the lesson of the Holocaust for us all.


Report from Benita Kolovos in Melbourne/AAP   J-Wire contributed to this article

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