8 February 2022

Probing the polls: income-based fines and protesting in the capital

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Freedom Convoy to Canberra

Freedom Convoy to Canberra protesting along Northbourne Avenue. Photo: Region Media.

Many Canberrans found themselves with an unexpected and significant speeding fine after 40 km/h zones were introduced in Civic midway through 2021.

That’s prompted debate about whether fines are a deterrent or not when they disproportionately affect low-income people. ACTCOSS has called for the ACT Government to look at income-based fines that would spread the financial impact and mitigate the effect on those with the least ability to pay.

We asked, Should traffic fines be income-based? A total of 1085 votes were cast.

Your choices to answer were No, rules are for everyone. If you’re in the wrong, pay up. This received 66 per cent of the total, or 711 votes. Alternatively, you could vote Yes, it would have the same impact and protect the vulnerable. This received 34 per cent of the total, or 374 votes.

This week, we’re wondering about the right to protest in Canberra.

Since New Year, coalitions of protesters loosely based around opposing mandatory vaccination have been in Canberra. The groups have instigated several major incidents, including more than $4 million of damage to Old Parliament House, blocking peak hour traffic and being moved on by police for camping illegally in the Parliamentary Triangle.

While the protesters say they speak for Australians who oppose mandatory vaccinations for any reason, they’ve raised the ire of many Canberrans who say the groups have outstayed their welcome.

Local pubs have had to call police and close early after refusing to serve unmasked patrons and shoppers at local supermarkets have been harassed by protesters for wearing masks, as ACT Health regulations require them to do.

The protesters have called on five million people to come to Canberra and say their intention is to overthrow Parliament. Around 1000 people were believed to be in the city ahead of Parliament’s first sitting day for 2022 this week.

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

“They certainly have a right to come to the centre of the nation’s democracy to vent their frustration at the social restrictions, mask and vaccine mandates that have marked government attempts to prevent the spread and limit the impacts of the COVID-19 virus,” Ian Bushnell wrote.

“But as the protests themselves have shown, their messages are confused and often conflated with internet conspiracy theories and a fair dose of another virus that wants to infect the Australian body politic – the Trumpian notion of an alienated and ignored people who need to take back their country.”

Jay Annabel wrote: “This isn’t a protest anymore, it’s a public nuisance. And the only ‘right’ they’re defending is their own personal ‘right’ to walk into a pub maskless and unvaccinated.”

Neenie Bee said the protesters were “vile, disrespectful people. They need to be moved on”.

Others disagreed, pointing out that protest is inherent to democracy.

“The protestors moved on days ago and are now at Epic. People are coming together in Canberra as the head of the nation to protest what is happening, which is a democratic process. If people couldn’t protest freely, it would be a dictatorship,” Lucky El wrote.

Our poll question this week is:

Do the “freedom protesters” have a right to disrupt Canberra with their actions?

View Results

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Capital Retro8:04 am 10 Feb 22

The antics of the two speakers in the National Press Club yesterday were more inflammatory than anything these protesters have done.

Someonesmother5:26 am 10 Feb 22

Gee not hard to see the freeDUMBers have coopted the poll to make it look like Canberrans are welcoming them. Good try, but Canberrans are sick to death of your tanty throwing, aggressive behaviour. GO HOME

Everyone has the right to peacefully protest. Canberrans are used to this. The anti-vax anti-mandate crowd are NOT peaceful. There may well be some who have genuine grievances. But the level of aggression dealt out to alcohol outlets, shops and other Canberra businesses is unconscionable. We are residents not parliamentarians.

Because an internet poll has never been brigaded…

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