18 February 2022

Hear the protesters out and you might agree with them

| James Coleman
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Convoy to Canberra protestors

Ten thousand Australians marched on Parliament House on Saturday, and we’re meant to believe they’re all stupid? Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The year is 2019. People are working alongside their colleagues in offices. Others have ‘checked-in’ their luggage and are boarding flights for a holiday in Europe. Masks are things surgeons wear while stooped over an open abdominal cavity in the operating theatre – nobody thinks about wearing them out in the open.

The flu jab is there if you want it. If you don’t, your choice, your loss. It’s not like you can’t go to the pub, visit your family, or keep your job if you don’t want it. What’s that? The government telling me to make sure I wash my hands? Go fill a pothole or something.

However, by the end of 2019, a total of 4124 people had tragically died of influenza and pneumonia.

Today, we would have to agree that we were all incredibly selfish in 2019. We come to this conclusion because since then, 4593 Australians have died with COVID-19.

READ ALSO Protesters should not take capital’s tolerance and hospitality for granted

It might be easy to heap ridicule on the protestors from the ‘Freedom Convoy to Canberra’. Many can’t seem to agree on what they want or why they were here. A few believe the Federal Government has an ABN listed on the New York stock exchange. Others think our politicians have committed treason. A minority are even self-confessed neo-Nazis. And yes, some others just need a good shower.


Freedom Convoy To Canberra protest march to Parliament House. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

I would also mention that the Federal Government has little control over what the individual states and territories choose to mandate under their respective emergency powers, so rallying on the doorstep of Parliament House is pointless. But what delivers a more powerful message – pockets of protestors scattered around the country or 10,000 in one place? Not looking so pointless now.

Maybe if we Canberrans pressed pause on the sneering and took a few moments to listen to the horde of fellow Australians that has filled our streets over the past two weeks, we might find we actually agree with some of what they are saying.

Dig through the mixed messages, and a loud and clear theme emerges: “We just want to live our life.” That sounds very much like something a normal person would say.

Saturday was one of the largest protests Canberra has ever seen, and you can tell because nobody was quite sure just how many people were actually there. There was nothing to compare it to. The official estimate from ACT Policing sits at 10,000. Of these, on Saturday, three were arrested, one for repeatedly ramming his truck into a barricade and another two for breaching the peace. Others have since been arrested for trespass and resisting a Territory official related to camping offences.

Compare that ratio to arrests at the average Extinction Rebellion protest. Eight were arrested in one protest in August 2021 and Parliament House and The Lodge were defaced.

Not all Convoy to Canberra protestors are crazy extremists or we would have seen more violence. As it is, ACT Policing, Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) management, National Capital Authority (NCA) management, even the CEO of Lifeline Canberra have all commented on how well-behaved most of these people have been. Probably because they are ordinary people who just want their lives back, just like the rest of us.

A Convoy to Canberra protestor with a simple message. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

They are nurses, teachers, paramedics, police officers, lifeguards, military personnel and hundreds of other professionals who have all been in their respective roles for decades before 2020 came along and the rest of us suddenly decided they had to go. All of these roles require a fair amount of education.

Of course, the past two years have been a twisted mess for everyone. Governments across the world, including in Australia, have handled the whole COVID-19 situation differently from each other, each one espousing their way as ‘the way’. Some of them ended better than others. Some claimed more lives than others. But at the end of the day, we’ve all come to the same point: dealing with Omicron.

READ ALSO ‘We’re all in this together’… until you’re not

We were told there were good reasons why we had to endure the lockdowns, the border closures, the pesky face masks, the never-ending State of Emergency, the Check In CBR app, and the injections of a chemical that has only been on the market for a year, again and again, and probably again. After all, we were told that each and every decision was founded in science. Who were we to argue?

But one by one, these reasons have been falling apart. The COVID-19 case fatality rate is now down around 0.19 per cent, and chances are, the virus will only weaken further. Lockdowns slow but do not stop the spread. Border closures do not stop the spread. Kids are not more vulnerable. The ACT Government literally does not know what to do with Check In CBR.

What happened to just living a normal life? We all want that back. And at least 10,000 people brought that message to Canberra.

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limestonecowboy6:02 pm 19 Feb 22

If I was to speak to them I would say that parliament is not currently sitting, the mandates are largely state based and the ACT has a 90% plus vaccination rate. Stop mimicking the ill-informed conspiracy theorists in the Divided Sates of America

The people that mostly die from flue are the elderly and those with underlying health issues. Those that are dying from Covid are the elderly and those with underlying health issues and the middle aged and the young. There is long Covid but no long Flue. The people being mandated to get a vaccination are those that work with the elderly or those with underlying health issues like in hospitals. These protesters are selfish individuals who care only for themselves and have some misguided thoughts about their rights and no thoughts about their responsibilities. Pull your heads in, go home and get vaccinated.

CaptainSpiff6:40 pm 19 Feb 22

Canberra is in the midst of an outbreak right now, even though our vaccination rates are through the roof. I’m curious why you feel that it’s important for aged care workers etc. to be vaccinated, when we observe vaccinated people spreading the virus just as well as unvaccinated? If I was in an aged care home I sure would not feel comfortable just because someone is vaccinated.

OTOH, what really would protect vulnerable cohorts is for Omicron (natures own vaccination ) to spread as widely as possible.

Jo Washington-King1:42 pm 19 Feb 22

Wow thanks James on such a balanced article and an honest write up.

Martin Keast12:26 am 19 Feb 22

Thanks go to Mr Coleman for expressing what many of us think. Christian thought has maintained that the civil government has no lawful jurisdiction to mandate or coerce people to be vaccinated or wear face masks. That is why I joined the protest march and will continue to speak out against this usurpation.

Why do we follow any laws set out by the government as Christians? God actually calls us to follow our leaders and submit to authority (as long as we submit to God as the ultimate authority). I don’t believe these mandates are against our faith or asking us to ignore the truth in that Jesus died for us and we should continue to share the good news in loving ways 🙂 I believe medicine is a gift and something which has helped my family many times when there have been illnesses and need. I believe in the science that is telling us that vaccinations at the very least reduce infection and do prevent the spread even in the slightest. I believe this more than the ‘fake news’ that I have read about the vaccination being bad for you. There was literally an article saying hundreds of fifa players are dying after the vaccination. Do you not think this would make real news if it was true. It was fake and the rare occasion it does occur, dated way before covid was a thing. If I am in a career that is working with elderly or vulnerable people (for example those with illnesses whose immune systems are already weak, why would I not at least try to protect those people). I understand people are scared and hesitant. And people are not actually being forced to take the vaccinations. It is mandated for some jobs yes, but they are not physically dragging people into clinics to get vaccinated. You have a choice to change careers or go elsewhere, which I understand must be hard, but in the end it is a choice you can make

This article hasn’t made me feel like I understand the protestors any better. I still don’t get why they want to end mandates and why they’re gathering in such large crowds. If they’re unvaccinated doesn’t that make them more vulnerable to getting sick and passing the virus on to others? My neighbour was unvaccinated when he got Covid (one year ago now) and he’s still got problems with his memory, taste and smell and occasionally still feels nauseous. Are these people aware of the danger they’re putting themselves in?

the protesters are angry about vaccine mandates imposed by the State’s.
This ought to just stop us all in our thinking.

CaptainSpiff5:48 pm 18 Feb 22

Canberra bubble on full display.

Author writes article about actually listening to what the protesters say.

Readers pile on, and none of them appear to have talked to any protester.

Do Canberrans really believe vaccination mandates and other Covid restrictions should continue? Maybe you should organize a demonstration for that and see how many people turn out.

Omicron is putting an end to the pandemic, whether you like it or not.

Author writes illogical article full of inconsistencies and holes.

Readers react to those clear deficiencies.

“OMG, you’re proving his point, you mustn’t have even talked to the protesters”.

Perhaps some people understand that proportionate risk based approaches are needed for the public health measures.

Can’t see anyone saying mandates or restrictions should be permanent.

And no one needs to organise a protest in support of the public health measures, the vast majority of people are already happy to play their part in adhering to them.

Why do you imagine no-one has talked to anyone protesting any of their many and varied issues, CaptainSpiff? Is it rather that you dislike the conclusions which followed?
The particular article suggests listening, which is fine and has been done at least by some, and otherwise it blithers. Many people have pointed out its failures of assumptions, data, and sense. Why do you not consider the implications of that, CaptainSpiff?
Your latter paragraphs merely attempt to create a straw man to distract from the nescience of the article, the topic at hand.

CaptainSpiff9:57 pm 18 Feb 22

Have you talked with any of the protesters?

Yes I have.

I’ve been in and around the protests over the last couple of weeks.

There’s definitely a mix of people there but the vast majority show they are easily led and if you hang around to hear the main speakers, there are some batsh”t crazy ideas being thrown around which most of them seem happy to be associated with.

They actually harm the goals they apparently want to achieve.

Clever Interrobang5:14 pm 18 Feb 22

Finally, common sense has spoken.

Thank you James and the RiotAct.

Thank you for bringing balance to the news cycle with a reasoned piece of journalism.

Peter Stanley2:15 pm 18 Feb 22

This is shadow anti-vaxx propaganda. “They’ve just ordinary Australians!” No, they’re not .Ordinary Australians willingly accept well-justifiex science and the reasonable restrictions intended to keep us ALL safe. Anti-vax zealots are anti-science, anti-knowledge, anti-democratic spoilers who have been gulled by conspiracy mongers to act selfishly and irresponsibly.This article panders does the work of those who seek to undermine accepted Australian community values.

It appears you may have missed the point of the article… hear their stories and ask why they are there and you might agree with them.

Then again, you might conclude they have no idea; especially given that most other people given the same considerations disagree, self-evidently as shown by their own actions.
If Mr Coleman’s obviously fallacious piece is their best support then reason is not the strong point of their position.

Clever Interrobang5:16 pm 18 Feb 22

No, being afraid of the boogeyman is propaganda.

The truth is far more boring and ordinary.

Jo Washington-King1:43 pm 19 Feb 22

Exactly right ! I’m no anti vaxxer but I support this cause

I really don’t see that much of a difference between mask mandates and seatbelt/helmet mandates. I get the frustration on vaccine mandates very slightly more, because proving vaccination is more complicated than proving that you have a seatbelt/helmet/mask on. Also i guess that people have lost their jobs over it, but it is very easy to get a vaccine so my sympathy doesn’t extend too far.

I agree, jam, that vaccination might give people more cause for alarm, although I expect also that most of those people will have had their MMR shots as babies and would not hesitate to get a tetanus shot for certain injuries if recommended by their doctor.
Following your seat belt analogy, would any of the protesters be surprised to be sacked from their job as a truckie (for example) if they persistently refused to take legally required rest breaks? Yet they wish to convey that they lost their jobs unjustly.
It is just special pleading, a fallacy of reasoning also exemplified by Mr Coleman.

A fine piece of cherry-picking on the ‘flu deaths in year 2019. 2017 would have been second-best for that purpose, 1997-2016 a bit of a “disaster” (very few deaths over all).
Given that comparatively there were practically no deaths from influenza in 2020-2021, I infer that James Coleman has been out there vigorously persuading the protesters (and now us) to mask up, get vaccinated, isolate when ill, and maintain good hygiene to reduce ‘flu deaths, not to mention those from Covid.
Does James Coleman think that the 2019 influenza death rate nearly four times the 2019 rate from traffic accidents is a wholly acceptable standard?

Coming soon … “Workplace Safety is for Cucks. and Wokerista’s”

“Workplace deaths are at their lowest point in history. At some point you have to ask ‘are all the safety measures worth it’? Of course every death or serious injury is a tragedy but perhaps they could just take some personal responsibility. Why should I have to wear silly looking hi-vis when I’m visting a factory with forklifts zipping round at 30kmph. Is my vest going to save me, no it’s not. Only I can save me by being vigilant. Of course employers SHOULD have a safe work system for their employees but we shuoldn’t MANDATE it. Let the market decide – over time employees (left uninjure) will gravitate to the employer that looks after them”

I love the people who continually try to play down Covid or pretend it doesn’t exist or is similar in seriousness to other infectious diseases we have lived with in the past.

The reason we’ve been able to avoid the worst effects is literally due to the actions our governments have taken, that they are arguing against.

You can argue around the edges that some of their actions didn’t make sense or were over the top but in general they have acted in good faith to benefit everyone.

This isn’t a debate about subjective opinions, most of the things being argued by the protesters are just flat out wrong or not supported by evidence.

Its also funny to see people here try and excuse the bad behaviour of these protesters because they agree with them. The gross hypocrisy of these commentators would be funny if it wasn’t such an important issue.

No doubt we’ll see them trotting out the same flimsy excuses again here.

Jenny Graves1:39 pm 18 Feb 22

I absolutely agree with you. The author doesn’t seem to recognise that you can’t compare flu deaths and COVID deaths. The latter would have rocketed sky-high without the measures taken by the State and Federal governments, as it did in many other places around the world that didn’t impose those measures.

The author writes a fair and balnced piece, as does veteran journalist Chris Ulmman who recently wrote along similar lines, after actually attending the rally and speaking to people there. It is important to distinguish between the majority of attendees, who were there to express their hardships, and the speakers who ranged from moderate to extreme to loony. Unfortunately here in Canberra there are some who live such privileged lives of security and comfort that any intrusion, disruption or inconvenience no matter how minor provokes hysterical reactions of intolerance and concocted outrage. Yes, a small minority of protesters and the occasional resident too, were rude and abusive but it is wrong and misleading to blame all of any group, society, culture or race for the actions of some.
(Cue The Stalker).

You’ve hit the nail on this head. A balanced piece of journalism is hard to come by in this day and age.

And stay tuned for Mr Coleman’s next installments in the series:

Gun deaths are so low now so we don’t need gun control laws.
Road fatalities are so much lower than many decades ago so we don’t need seat belts.

Try calling any of your representatives in the ACT legislative assembly. If they answer the phone at all, which is very unlikely, they will not entertain any questions that go against what the government is doing. Even opposition members won’t answer the phone or speak on any subject.

Capital Retro11:14 am 18 Feb 22

Soon, like everything else to do with ACT government, we will have to contact MLAs through Access Canberra. Probably you will speak to someone in New Zealand or wherever their call centre is.

Clever Interrobang5:20 pm 18 Feb 22

They prefer to fob you off to the department to speak to a public servant

At least if you speak to the opposition they will usually listen to you (although they have limited ability to do anything meaningful).

It is each persons’ right not to get vaccinated. It is also each employers’ right not to employ people are not vaccinated – and for the government to set minimum requirements for employment categories, eg dentists, doctors, truck drivers.. Decisions and actions have consequences.

Clever Interrobang5:23 pm 18 Feb 22

Yes and no, we have the common law and legal principles.

An employer can only refuse to employ unvaccinated people in circumstances where it’s not considered to be a form of active discrimination (of course there are legitimate circumstances where it may not be unreasonable).

You are acting apologist for a group that has suggested that the entire parliament needs to be bombed, the government executed, and a provisional government of their ten best friends be installed to sort out the broken electoral system and restore order to the country.

In the meantime you kinda missed the boat for this complaint about mandates since the states are all rolling back the various health orders as vaccination numbers rise.

What’s that? You weren’t aware that vaccinations slow the spread and reduce the severity of symptoms and deaths? Well now you understand why mortality rates for COVID-19 are dropping (including fewer and fewer old people being alive to still die of it).

You virus apologists have had your fun. Now just get vaccinated so we can roll back the mask mandates further. And don’t you dare abuse me for wearing a mask in public like the protesters you are acting apologist for in this horrible spray of misinformation and cherry picked lies.

It certainly does make one wonder what the number of deaths from influenza would be if there was a 98.6% vaccination rate for that as well.

Peter Stanley2:36 pm 18 Feb 22

Well said!

Quote “ The COVID-19 case fatality rate is now down around 0.19 per cent.”. Don’t you thinks this has to do with lockdowns, mask wearing and the high vaccine take up?

No. There’s increasingly evidence that NPIs had little to no effect on mortality. Which can be seen by looking at countries that couldn’t afford to lockdown or have low vaccine take up.

The risk factors are age, obesity and then vitamin D deficiency, and that explains mortality far better than any action government took. Western countries are old and fat, and typically don’t go outside much.

Please cite the study you are using as evidence and/or your qualifications to make a statement like that. Epidemiologist and doctors are saying different. This is the whole issue with the protests. They are disagreeing with the same people they trust to treat them when they are sick, just because they are being asked to give someone back to the community instead just nurturing their own self interest.

Can you please post the peer reviewed evidence for these claims, as they fly in the face of the other evidence I’ve seen.

I looked at just one of these non peer reviewed papers and here’s a n example response from Dr Seth Flaxman, Associate Professor who said:

“Smoking causes cancer, the earth is round, and ordering people to stay at home (the correct definition of lockdown) decreases disease transmission. None of this is controversial among scientists. A study purporting to prove the opposite is almost certain to be fundamentally flawed.

“In this case, a trio of economists have undertaken a meta-analysis of many previous studies. So far so good. But they systematically excluded from consideration any study based on the science of disease transmission, meaning that the only studies looked at in the analysis are studies using the methods of economics. These do not include key facts about disease transmission such as: later lockdowns are less effective than earlier lockdowns, because many people are already infected; lockdowns do not immediately save lives, because there’s a lag from infection to death, so to see the effect of lockdowns on Covid deaths we need to wait about two or three weeks. (This was all known in March 2020 – we discussed it in a paper. Our paper is excluded from consideration in this meta-analysis.)

“It’s as if we wanted to know whether smoking causes cancer and so we asked a bunch of new smokers: did you have cancer the day before you started smoking? And what about the day after? If we did this, obviously we’d incorrectly conclude smoking is unrelated to cancer, but we’d be ignoring basic science. The science of diseases and their causes is complex, and it has a lot of surprises for us, but there are appropriate methods to study it, and inappropriate methods. This study intentionally excludes all studies rooted in epidemiology–the science of disease.”

Lol. Please see below response from bj. Sweet fancy Jesus you can’t be serious.

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