Seselja criticises Barr for COVID-19 “double standards” over protests

Dominic Giannini 10 June 2020 30
Black Lives Matter protest

ACT Senator Zed Seselja has criticised Chief Minister Andrew Barr for letting Black Lives Matter protests go ahead in the capital. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

ACT Senator and former Territory opposition leader Zed Seselja has criticised Chief Minister Andrew Barr for not removing lockdown restrictions sooner but supporting the Black Lives Matter protest that was held at Parliament House last week.

Speaking to Sky News today (9 June), Senator Seselja said at least one Canberra cafe was visited a number of times by officials enforcing social distancing over the weekend, but no infringements were handed out at the protests that attracted thousands of people.

“You cannot argue to me that it is not safe to have 21 people in a cafe in Canberra but it is safe to have 50 people in Queanbeyan. It does not pass the pub test,” Senator Seselja said.

“I think the community is rightly very angry at the double standard that has been applied. It is time to ease some restrictions not backed by science.”

Lifting restrictions for businesses in the ACT has been a point of contention for the Canberra Liberals, who have continuously criticised Mr Barr for not opening up the economy sooner.

But Mr Barr was unmoved by Senator Seselja’s comments, accusing him of hypocrisy.

“It will be front-page news to everyone that Senator Seselja has had an epiphany and is now calling for policy backed by science. That has not been his approach to climate change or energy policy,” the Chief Minister said in a statement.

“If the Senator has a serious problem with the AHPPC [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] advice to National Cabinet then I suggest he raises those concerns, based on his epidemiology qualifications, with Chief Medical Officers.”

The ACT’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, said that the ACT was not moving in lockstep with NSW and that the lower limits in pubs and clubs in the Territory was to mitigate risk.

“In the ACT we have tried very hard to give a wide range of openings to all sectors within the community,” she said. “We have moved quite early on opening up indoor sports as well as some of our museums, galleries and cultural institutions.

“I think there is a principle of cumulative risk of having multiple places open and we are just trying to achieve the right balance here in the ACT.”

Zed Seselja

ACT Senator Zed Seselja says he is “appalled” that protests have been allowed to go ahead during the lockdown. Photo: Region Media.

Senator Seselja singled out Mr Barr in a Facebook post on Sunday night for not taking action against protestors.

“The worthiness or otherwise of the cause does not change the expert medical advice,” he wrote.

“The right to protest is important, but so is the right to worship, to work and operate a small business, to see your family and be with them in times of grief.

“Here in Canberra, there has been silence from Andrew Barr as people have gathered in close proximity in numbers far greater than the current restrictions allow.

“That is not a concession that was given to families trying to organise funerals or weddings or small businesses who wanted to open in the last two months.”

Mr Barr said that protestors had to balance their rights and responsibilities within a democracy including taking appropriate health precautions by self-isolating and getting tested after attending the protest if symptoms develop.

“The right to protest is a fundamental one,” he said.

“I do note that I am being asked these questions [this week], but I was not two or three weeks ago when a whole bunch of people protested against the 5G network or some other conspiracies around Bill Gates’ alleged involvement in the coronavirus.

“They were large gatherings in the hundreds and at that time the Prime Minister said ‘it is a free country, people can do what they want’.

“We have rights and we have responsibilities in Australia and I will defend the right to protest whether that is against the 5G telecommunications network or the founder of Microsoft if that is what floats your boat.”


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30 Responses to Seselja criticises Barr for COVID-19 “double standards” over protests
JS9 JS9 12:45 pm 11 Jun 20

Must be an election on the horizon. Only time Zed and his prehistoric views of the world appear are when there is some form of election on the horizon. What a waste of space as a ‘representative’ of our community he is.

grim123 grim123 11:46 am 11 Jun 20

He is right, but that won’t make any difference to the commenters here.

If Barr is willing to allow hundreds to gather for a non-essential virtue signalling session, he has no argument left to continue halting social gatherings for other non-essential things.

Lynn Stape Lynn Stape 10:17 am 11 Jun 20

So Zed is doing his best Scomo?

rsm1105 rsm1105 6:40 am 11 Jun 20

Is it about ‘rights’? Really? Freedom of association? Rights to work?

John Moulis John Moulis 2:53 am 11 Jun 20

Zed shouldn’t have invoked science to argue against the lockdown restrictions. It has enabled the believers of climate change to muddy the waters. Rather, the case for lifting the restrictions should be that they were a case of overreach by government responding to what has proven to be a false flag pandemic which has fallen far short of the modelling and estimates at the outset that 200,000 people in Australia would die and our hospitals would be overwhelmed. We can see the result of that folly when we drive past Garran Oval and see that white elephant emergency hospital which was constructed to cope with the anticipated “pandemic” which never happened.

This whole episode – this three month lost weekend of our lives – was a fascist conspiracy to demonstrate the power of government. A “because we can” exercise to prove to us that they are ultimately in charge of our lives, that our rights and lifestyle are determined by them and that they can easily withdraw those rights and privileges whenever they wanted to. It is frightening how so many people laid down meekly and allowed that to happen.

    JS9 JS9 12:44 pm 11 Jun 20

    What an absolute diatribe of dribble John….. but then some on here truly don’t give two hoots about anyone else, and would love a dog eat dog world, where society functions only to serve individuals, and no one cares who gets trampled along the way.

    What a sad way to view the world.

Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 10:43 pm 10 Jun 20

The time to ease all restrictions is coming fast with the protests to show no spike in Covid community transmission in two weeks...

    Lynn Stape Lynn Stape 3:08 pm 11 Jun 20

    Victoria ...protester tested positive and they have no idea yet how many he infected...

agent86 agent86 9:45 pm 10 Jun 20

Zed seemed to know how to count when he did the numbers job on Gary Humphries. It appears to me that Zed really believes the ACT should not have any elected representatives. Never forget what he did when the ACT passed the bill for assisted dying…or is he now trying to make amends for that decision?

chewy14 chewy14 9:29 pm 10 Jun 20

No matter what you think of Seselja personally, he’s completely on the money here.

The government’s mixed messaging is damaging their ability to effectively manage this crisis. Andrew Barr just comes off as a fool with his recent public statements.

    JC JC 9:04 am 11 Jun 20

    Not sure what the mixed messages are the ACT restrictions have been very well communicated. Fact they are different from NSW is a non issue seeing as every state and territory has differences.

    The only thing that was said By Barr and Co that you could “pick” on is saying we are lock step with NSW, but frankly with easing I am glad we are not especially as it seems the NSW government policy has been influenced by powerful lobby groups like Clubs NSW.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:49 am 11 Jun 20

    On the way in to lockdown we apparently needed to move in lockstep with NSW because we couldn’t be an island within NSW with different restrictions.

    This made perfect sense because we weren’t going to close the borders and we needed to minimise movement within the region. We didn’t want to create pull factors from NSW people travelling to the ACT if our restrictions were less onerous.

    Now on the way out however, despite being in a vastly better position than NSW, the messaging has changed.

    For example, Andrew Barr showing his clear disdain for pubs and clubs saying that playing poker machines is a waste of time and you are free to go to NSW if you want to waste your money. Keeping limits at cafes and restaurants lower than across the border preventing many people from going back to work.

    We then had thousands allowed to congregate in city areas over the weekend with limp opposition from the government not wanting to offend their political supporter base.

    How are we meant to trust their claims that they would follow the expert medical advice when it’s clear and obvious to everyone that this is no longer the case.

    The politics have taken over.

    JS9 JS9 12:47 pm 11 Jun 20

    But politics clearly took over long ago in NSW as well? So you want us to what – let politics take over more about decision making? NSW has caved to pressure from lobby groups like Clubs NSW to move earlier on things like clubs and pubs then was ever envisaged under the original plan.

    chewy14 chewy14 4:12 pm 11 Jun 20

    JS9,
    Except it hasn’t taken over in NSW, they’ve taken a measured approach to balance the health risk against the economic harm being done from the lockdown.

    But even if you think the politics has overtaken NSW, it makes no sense for us to have different restrictions.

    We are at less risk than them, we haven’t really had a case for a month and there is no community transmission, so the risk of us following NSW as was the government’s previous logic, is very low.

    To highlight how these types of things can lower the public’s trust, today a person attending one of the weekend protests in Victoria has tested positive to coronavirus. The outrage is immense. The lack of trust has grown immensely.

    In a crisis, the government needs to be clear and consistent. It’s clear that in the ACT, ours is failing.

    JC JC 5:31 pm 11 Jun 20

    It made perfect sense when restrictions were coming into place. And if NSW came out with any sense of responsibility then it would make sense now too.

    But as I and one other poster have observed NSWs plan to lift restrictions would appear to have been influenced by certainly lobby groups (who are also donors) so frankly I am happy the ACT has taken a more cautious path, as much as I would love a beer and schnitty at the club.

    chewy14 chewy14 9:01 pm 11 Jun 20

    JC,
    No it still makes perfect sense to follow NSW because the same arguments about being an island in NSW still apply.

    And because our risk is so much lower than theirs, we should have been well in advance of NSW based on the number of cases and zero community transmission.

    It makes no sense to be behind NSW on this because if case numbers rebound, we would have to increase our restrictions to match them anyway.

    And as above, the inconsistencies with the protest not being stopped on the weekend show how the government has lost control of their position. The risk at such an event is far higher than elsewhere where significant restrictions still apply.

Dolph Mossberg Dolph Mossberg 8:17 pm 10 Jun 20

Does he genuinely think people really can’t see why he’d oppose the protests?

Kieran Angus Kieran Angus 8:11 pm 10 Jun 20

Since when did Zed listen to evidence?

Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 6:51 pm 10 Jun 20

Zed who?

Larry Appley Larry Appley 6:37 pm 10 Jun 20

But Mr Barr was unmoved by Senator Seselja’s comments, accusing him of hypocrisy.

“It will be front-page news to everyone that Senator Seselja has had an epiphany and is now calling for policy backed by science. That has not been his approach to climate change or energy policy,” the Chief Minister said in a statement.

Andrew Barr 1 Zed Seselja 0

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 10:18 pm 10 Jun 20

    Aaah pesky science, that one thing that actually cannot be bought with money, despite their best efforts. You can buy a few scientists to peddle invalid science that gets shot down, but you can't change science by buying it with money and removing those inconvenient facts.

Justin Watson Justin Watson 6:33 pm 10 Jun 20

I agree the protestors needed to think a bit about what they were doing and was it appropriate to put others at risk. However Zed can't talk about double standards. He was quite happy for there to be different standards for the LGBQTI community during the SSM postal poll. He is quite happy for there to be different rules for the rish and the poor. As the article points out Zed didn't seem to mind about the nutjobs and their 5G conspiracy protests at an arguably less safe time to protest.

Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 6:28 pm 10 Jun 20

Those protests would've happened whether or not authorities gave approval anyway. Sending the cops in to try fine, arrest or disperse them would've been a bigger risk.

That's actually been a common story in several cities across the world. Where protesters made an effort to socially distance or to at the very least wear masks and were then herded tightly together by police who were not wearing masks.

Common sense to allow the protests from that perspective as well as a civil rights one.

David Perkins David Perkins 6:25 pm 10 Jun 20

Zed is such a reactionary that every time he has something to say The Liberal vote in tha ACT goes backward. The Barr Labor government has managed the coronavirus pandemic with competence and sensitivity . Indeed, it has governed for all, in conjunction with the Greens, with a minimum of fuss or drama. As the Libs have abandoned small l liberalism it will be another generation until the electorate will give them any close consideration. RIP ACT Liberals.

Matt Fordham Matt Fordham 6:23 pm 10 Jun 20

Does anyone take Z seriously anymore?

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