The deputy prime minister has been slammed for suggesting Black Lives Matter protests held in Victoria contributed to the state’s second wave of COVID-19.
Michael McCormack appeared on ABC’s Q&A on Monday night to discuss the coronavirus-stricken state and the government’s handling of the crisis.
When host Hamish Macdonald asked whether Victoria’s contact tracing system could be trusted if the state were to ease restrictions, Mr McCormack’s answer had the rest of the panelists scratching their heads.
‘We have had that outbreak because of the security guards, who did the wrong thing. We had that outbreak because of a family who gathered in too large a number. We had the outbreak in Victoria because of a protest rally,’ he said.
Macdonald immediately disputed the statement and insisted there was no proven link between the second outbreak of COVID-19 and any BLM rallies.
Protesters are seen during a Black Lives Matter rally in Melbourne, Saturday, June 6. The deputy PM suggested on Monday that protests were linked to the second wave of COVID-19 in Melbourne
‘What’s the evidence of the protest rally leading to the outbreak… Sorry, you’re drawing a link that I’m not sure is substantiated in fact,’ he said.
‘I’m not sure there is any actual evidence that the Black Lives Matter protest led to this outbreak.’
But Mr McCormack doubled down on his claim, arguing that it formed part of the official reasoning given at the height of the crisis.
‘When the second wave occurred, they were the three reasons that were given. It was the security failure, it was the family that gathered in too large numbers-‘
Macdonald interjected again, asking him to accept that he was ‘wrong’ in blaming protesters.
An inquiry into the failures of the state’s mandatory hotel quarantine system have suggested about 99 per cent of all new cases can be traced back to returned travellers, and about 90 per cent are linked to just one family.
Michael McCormack appeared on ABC’s Q&A on Monday night to discuss the coronavirus-stricken state and the government’s handling of the crisis
People are seen on Swanston Street in Melbourne, Sunday, September 6 as Premier Daniel Andrews warned the lockdown would be extended
Instead of acknowledging those findings, Mr McCormack again reiterated his belief that demonstrators did the wrong thing.
‘No I don’t. I don’t think people should be protesting, actually, at the moment. In any way, shape or form,’ he said.
‘There were people at that rally with COVID-19 – and that has since been proven, that they did have COVID-19 when they went to that protest, they should not have been at that protest.’
Mr McCormack finally appeared to concede that his argument wasn’t based in fact, and changed tactics to anecdotally support his opinion.
‘Police resources have been used unjustly. They should have been doing what their job is, and that is to ensure that law and order has been kept, rather than have to attend and babysit a group of protesters who shouldn’t have been protesting in the first place,’ he concluded.
After an excruciating few minutes in the hot seat, Macdonald finally turned his attention to the other panelists.
Mr McCormack doubled down on his claim, arguing that it formed part of the official reasoning given at the height of the crisis
Macdonald immediately disputed the statement and insisted there was no proven link between the second outbreak of COVID-19 and any BLM rallies
Dr Omar Khorshid, President of the Australian Medical Association supported Macdonald in saying there was not any evidence linking the Black Lives Matter protest to the second wave of cases in Melbourne and wider Victoria.
‘With respect, Deputy Prime Minister, we do know what happened in Victoria. We know that the processes around hotel quarantine failed, the virus was able to get into some community groups,’ Dr Khorshid said.
‘I’m certainly not aware of any evidence that the Black Lives Matter protest resulted in the outbreak in Victoria.’
‘But I would agree that congregating in large numbers at the moment does not make sense. But we shouldn’t be hiding from the real causes of the outbreak.’
Kristina Keneally, Labor’s Shadow Home Affairs Minister, also took the opportunity to lambast Mr McCormack.
‘I’m gobsmacked by what I heard from the Deputy Prime Minister,’ she said.
‘Trying to assert that this second wave in Victoria is linked directly to the Black Lives Matter protest. I mean, that is an alternative fact, Trumpism, make up your own reality.’
Protesters are seen during a Black Lives Matter rally in Melbourne, Saturday, June 6
A person is seen walking across a quiet Bourke Street on September 06 amid Melbourne’s strict Stage Four lockdown