Culture

An Actual Government MP Is Speaking At A Reclaim Australia Rally This Weekend

George Christensen: a federal MP Tony Abbott once described as "a good bloke".

Earlier this year you may have seen a few headlines about Reclaim Australia, a protest group concerned with protecting and enforcing the values and behaviours they see as “the Australian way of life”. It’s possible you even had the pleasure of encountering them in the flesh — perhaps you saw a smattering of flag-waving middle-aged people snarling at passersby from an RSL carpark; or, if you were truly blessed, you may have discovered a full band of neo-Nazis in the CBD. The broad range of scumlords this cause appeals to is perhaps the only aspect in which the group could be considered inclusive.

When these supporters clashed with anti-racism protestors during the Easter long weekend, many — including ourselves — tried to put the movement in perspective. The number of people who turned up to each rally was pretty meagre, and with Pauline Hanson giving one of the main speeches it was clear their values and grievances came from nothing but a vocal radical fringe. It’s possible the media attention and combative counter-protest may have been disproportionate to the threat that Reclaim actually posed.

Today, however, that optimistic theory has taken a bit of a hit. The group has just announced via Facebook that Liberal/National MP George Christensen will be their main speaker at a protest in his hometown of Mackay this Sunday.

That name again: George Christensen. A democratically-elected parliamentarian from Australia’s most powerful political party. A man who has been in office for five years, affected actual change in our nation, and will presumably continue to do so after willingly rallying a group of adult humans who legitimately think Islamic people are trying to steal Christmas.

Fun fact: he’s totally free to do this, but still straight-up banned from going on Q&A.

If you’re one of those wise people who don’t subject themselves to the lives of those in the murky swamplands of the government’s backbench, it’s important to know this obnoxious walking thumb has quite a colourful history with this kind of thing.

In 2010, articles from his uni days were unearthed which included off-colour ‘jokes’/slurs about women, gay men, and Jewish people. Tony Abbott was quick to vouch for him as a “good bloke” and Christensen soon made a public apology. In 2012, he advocated the deportation of Muslim protestors telling them to “jump on the first plane and head back to where [they came] from“, and in 2013, he was the only federal MP to attend a lecture by infamous anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders. More recently, he went on a Twitter rant slamming the #I’llRideWithYou campaign as “pathetic”, which caused members of his own party to distance themselves from him.

With this background, as well as his continued suspicion of halal certification, he won’t exactly be out of place with those at the rally. In fact, last weekend he also wrote a blog post admonishing those who had offered counter-protest to those at the Reclaim Australia rallies over Easter.

“It is a shame the Socialist ratbags took such aggressive and racist action to shut down any free speech that doesn’t agree with their own ideology,” he said in justification of reporting them — the anti-racism protestors — to the Human Rights Commission.

It’s with this same criticism of “left-wing” backlash that he announced his speaking engagement this morning. “There are those who want to silence me and stop me from being at the rally,” he said. “Hell will freeze over before I give in to such intimidation.”

GetUp’s Community Run petition he references here currently has 95 signatures which specifically call on Tony Abbott to stop Christensen from speaking. “The Reclaim Australia Rally – Mackay Facebook page celebrates harm to Islamic people and publishes comments referring to women wearing traditional Islamic dress as ‘disrespectful bitches’,” the petition reads. “Islamic residents of Mackay deserve to live without fear of discrimination or harm.”

And, while that quote from the Facebook page sounds extreme, it’s actually pretty much the norm. The event listing of the rally itself also features comments like “I DO NOT WANT TO SEE A FULL FUCKING BURQA IN COLES WHEN I SHOP” and another which features an image of a Muslim woman walking down the street with her two children. “I’m not racists [sic] but I don’t know why they want to be here if they have to wear this crap,” it reads. “How does an airport let these people on planes and in airports wearing this shit … This is not there country it’s our country fit in or piss off.”

Importantly, only 226 people have listed themselves as attending that event; a meagre sum compared to Mackay’s full population of more than 74,000, and an encouraging sign the group hasn’t transcended their radical fringe status. But that’s also an indication of the problem itself: as an elected representative of that full electorate — and in turn, the nation itself — what is George Christensen doing actively supporting them?