For months now, any criticism of Daniel Andrews’ government over the Victorian outbreak and subsequent lockdown has been portrayed by progressive and Labor partisans as a kind of right-wing plot aimed at undermining a popular premier and restarting the economy at any cost.
Jibes about “Dictator Dan” and “Chairman Dan” from Victorian Liberals — who claimed Andrews was too tough before the outbreak, then attacked him as too soft after it, before reverting back to the “too tough” case now — have certainly reinforced that view.
But the #IstandwithDan crowd on social media has been strangely silent over the absurd, and scary, arrest of Ballarat mother Zoe Buhler over a Facebook post she made proposing a protest against Victoria’s lockdown.
Buhler’s house was raided and searched by Victoria Police, and she was handcuffed until officers were satisfied the location was “secure”, presumably worried she might deploy a like button against them.
Police took her computer equipment and have banned her from using social media.
Note that Buhler, who is pregnant, wasn’t arrested for protesting, and thus physically breaching lockdown laws, but proposing a protest on a social media platform, which falls afoul of the “incitement” provisions of the Victorian Crimes Act.
That she was arrested and handcuffed in her own home by multiple officers is goon squad stuff.
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Buhler’s views on lockdown might be idiotic and extreme, but her treatment was a wild overreaction by a police with real form in persecuting Victorians for lockdown breaches.
The treatment of Buhler has been the subject of criticism from such far right wing bodies as the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Victorian Bar Association. Not so much, though, from the Andrews crowd on Twitter*.
The case of Buhler — a dill who has apologised for her “bimbo moment” — and those of other noted targets of police raids, journalists Annika Smethurst and Dan Oakes and Sam Clark aren’t directly comparable.
But they all show up an ongoing theme of police overreach, at the behest of governments, justified by “security” concerns — national security or health security, in Buhler’s case.
More to the point, they show up the relative indifference of most Australians to that overreach.
The outrage about the raids on Smethurst and the ABC was more or less confined to the media and some politicians.
Anger about the vexatious prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery is limited to a small group of supporters.
Australians simply don’t get outraged when goons in uniforms raid and harass citizens without cause — and especially not if they support the government that does it, or they think the victim holds different political views to them.
As I’ve argued before, this is partly because we don’t have a tradition for debating civil rights in Australia, we don’t have the institutions, or the legal and constitutional framework, or even have the language with which to discuss it. And increasingly, wingnuts like “sovereign citizens” are stealing these issues to deploy in their own interests.
A bill of rights would at least put police forces on notice that there’s a legal structure in place to protect the basic rights of citizens from the kind of government-mandated harassment that the AFP and Victorian police feel they can engage in with impunity.
*(And for all the angry Andrews supporters queuing up to cancel their subscriptions/attack me in the comments/belt me on Twitter, yep, I’m a right-wing hack looking for a job at The Australian etc etc, just like I have been for the last 10 years that I’ve been banging on about this stuff.)