opinion

We need to talk about the dangerous rhetoric against Daniel Andrews right now.

This week, I've seen Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews depicted as Adolf Hitler. 

I've seen signs calling for him to die. 

I've seen an inflatable doll depicting him thrown from a structure. 

I've even seen a carefully crafted noose made just for him. And a makeshift gallows. 

Watch: Daniel Andrews responds to the threats against him and his family. Post continues after video.


Video via Sky News.

These were all visible and prominent additions to the demonstrations outside the Victorian parliament this week, as hundreds protest against the state government's controversial pandemic bill that aims to give the state's premier and health minister the power to declare a pandemic and make public health orders without putting them to parliament. 

To protest is an Australian right. An integral part of our democracy. But what's happening in Melbourne right now is not constructive or helpful. 

As soon as you bring violent death threats and barbaric torture devices into your argument, you've lost. You've cannibalised your legitimacy. 

As Samantha Ratnam, Leader of the Victorian Greens, wrote on Twitter, "The thousands of emails I’ve received in recent weeks have demonstrated a very genuine fear. And I understand that people are scared...

"But what I’ve noticed is that almost every email or phone call or social media message has contained some form of misinformation or conspiracy theory; a gross misrepresentation of the bill we’re debating. And this is something the campaign to oppose this bill has to answer for."

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Right now, two things are true. 

There is a portion of Victorians protesting because they are concerned politicians in their state will be awarded too much power under this proposed law, which looks to replace the 'state of emergency powers' that have been used for the past two years to wrangle the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The main concerns include the premier being able to declare a pandemic without putting it to parliament, the transfer of emergency powers to the health minister from the chief health officer, targeted health orders based on vaccination status, and the ability to extend the powers indefinitely. 

The bill is still being debated, and various amendments are being discussed to alleviate these fears and improve accountability and transparency concerns. 

But people are allowed to have their say, they're allowed to oppose this bill - amended or not. That's fine. 

What's not fine are the other people in these protests fuelled by misinformation and anti-vaccine hatred. They're accusing Premier Andrews of being a dictator who is trying to control people and introduce an 'apartheid regime'. 

That is an insult to the victims of those regimes and the horrific atrocities they faced. There is no comparison, and to suggest that there is demonstrates either a lack of understanding in history or a warped sense of reality. 

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Read more: Stop comparing Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions to the Holocaust.

Not only that, they are protesting in a way that's vulgar, violent and terrifying for not just the politicians, but their families. 

There is a difference between wearing fur covered in red paint to signify blood (a popular tool used by animal rights protesters to attract attention), and wishing death on a politician with a custom-made noose.

As Daniel Andrew's wife wrote on Twitter this week, "We are reminded that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it." 

Her fears of the darkness are not unfounded. 

We've seen hundreds of people arrested and charged over violence at COVID-19 related protests across most Australian states and territories, but particularly in Victoria. 

We've seen reporters attacked, police officers hurt, and terrifying crowd surges towards buildings and officials by anger-filled crowds.

Like Daniel Andrews, WA Premier Mark McGowan and his staff have also been receiving threats over his government's pandemic choices, so much so he's been forced this week to close his electorate office. 

"There's been death threats, there's been threats to rape my staff, there's been people threatening to bomb my office," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"Someone turned up with an armoured car with a machine gun on the top."

In September, a man was found guilty of threatening Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young after he sent them multiple messages promising to "wipe [them] from the face of the earth".

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Counter-terrorism officials have already charged one Victorian man who encouraged anti-lockdown protesters to bring firearms to state parliament and execute Andrews, and as protests continue, investigations into other alleged extremists involved in the demonstrations continue. 

What have we become? 

This is not the way to protest. This is not the way to have your voice heard.

In the UK, two MPs have been murdered in the past five years - MP Sir David Amess was stabbed multiple times at a church just last month, and MP Jo Cox was killed outside a library in 2016. 

Is this the kind of brutality we're headed towards?

Chant "kill the bill" all your like. Gather outside parliament if you must. But leave personal, violent, horrendous personal attacks out of it. 

What we're seeing in Melbourne right now are legitimate concerns being railroaded by loud and proud extremists.

At the end of the day, the Victorian government is trying to work out how to make sure their laws and legislation stand up in the face of future pandemics. To make sure they are robust, and effective and have their citizens' best interests at heart. 

Fight for your rights in that discussion, but fight fairly. This is getting out of hand. 

You can keep up to date with Gemma Bath's articles here, or follow her on Instagram, @gembath.

Feature image: Getty/Mamamia.