This morning my social media accounts have filled up with politicians engaging in virtue signalling. There was an altercation yesterday between “far right” groups and anti-racism groups (apparently not “far left” groups) at St. Kilda beach. Unfortunately the term “far right” has become so debased these days it is hard to know exactly what constitutes “far right”. Incitement to violence and public affray are a matter for the police and, quite rightly, the police were in attendance.
What I have seen on social media is politicians heaping abuse on the “far right” group and their fellow travellers. UnAustralian and such like. Words like “repugnant” are being bandied about. It seems the views of a subset of our fellow citizens are repugnant. Okay. This must always be true. But so what? As a society we regulate behaviour and not viewpoints – the attempt to regulate views has led to all sorts of difficulty in recent years.
Other politicians, however, have sought partisan advantage from yesterday’s event.
To be fair she isn’t alone in this behaviour – all politicians make this or a similar argument at some point. I seem to recall all sorts of silliness when the Abbott government (or was it the then opposition?) didn’t want to rely on a vote in the Parliament. What SHY is saying here is merely an example of a broader political tactic that gets deployed in Australia on a regular basis.
In his defence Fraser Anning makes a valid democratic argument:
I’m here representing a lot of people from Queensland who wish they could be here.
Now we can quibble – Senators represent their states and not individual voters, he is a stop-gap Senator, not many people voted for him, and so on; but he does have a point. The “far right” in Australia are compelled to vote – along with the rest of us – and are just as entitled in a democracy to have their views represented in the Parliament as anyone else. That also means that their representatives’ votes in the Parliament must also be counted. So the argument that Senator X or MP Y votes shouldn’t be counted in the Parliament is always wrong and undemocratic – especially so when voters are compelled to vote. It seems a bit hypocritical to herd the electorate out at gunpoint to vote and then to disregard their elected representatives if and when they turn out to hold “repugnant” views.
On the other hand though – the place where politicians should be representing their constituents is in the Parliament, and not on the street confronting the police. Again Anning isn’t the only culprit here – many politicians seem to think that it is appropriate to participate in public protests.
It seems to me that the solution to public protest isn’t disfranchisement of the protesters or their representatives.