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What gains has the freedom movement made politically in 2022?

By Michael Viljoen - posted Monday, 9 January 2023

As a Melburnian who witnessed both the enormous 'freedom' rallies in front of Parliament House, Melbourne, in November 2021, and also the follow-up 'Convoy to Canberra' rallies at our nation's Capital in February 2022, I would like to investigate what impact the freedom movement might have made, and what gains it may have achieved politically. For on the streets, it appeared to be a huge movement, with potential to impact the upcoming federal and state elections of 2022.

In particular, this article will view the impact of this movement through an assessment of upper house voting in the recent Victorian state election.

A people movement is birthed

After the second successive year of heavily restrictive COVID lockdowns in Melbourne began to ease in the Spring of 2021, the discontent against government overreach became evident, as growing numbers of protesters converged on Melbourne's CBD. Regular Saturday rallies during November 2021 were being measured in the tens of thousands. The rallies peaked with the 'Worldwide Freedom Rally' on 20 November 2021, beginning in front of Parliament House, and then proceeding towards the Flagstaff Gardens for the main speeches.


Estimates of the crowd were upwards of 200,000, although the ABC only reported 'thousands'. Underreporting and bias against the rallies by the mainstream media was a feature of all anti-lockdown protests dating back to early 2020. Yet video footage taken by ordinary citizens with their telephones, as well as by alternative media abound. So these days it's becoming harder for mainstream media to hide the truth. The possibility that there were 200,000+ protestors in the CBD on that day can be evidenced in this video, uploaded to YouTube by True Arrow, Hundreds of thousands march in Melbourne

Even without an exact figure, it's hard to doubt that this was the largest ever single political gathering in Australia, larger than the Vietnam moratorium protests of May 1970, estimated to be perhaps 70,000 in Spring St, Melbourne. The 'Freedom Rally' of 20 November 2021 could even claim to be one of the largest single-day gathering of people of any description in Australia's history, if also one of the most underreported.

As feelings of outrage grew against mandated vaccinations on Australian citizens, the focus of the protests switched to Canberra. The 'Convoy to Canberra' protests of February 2022 were easily the largest political protests in Canberra's history. Not only for size, but also for their organic nature, what happened was unprecedented. It was uncanny how so many people from all over mainland Australia, including myself, at the drop of a hat without any organisation, impulsively just got in the cars and drove to Canberra.

These protests were partly inspired by the trucker protests in Canada. Canadian truckers, angry at being compelled to take mRNA or other experimental injections, convoyed in from across their vast nation to their Capital buildings in Ottawa. The truckers were seen as leading the fightback against Trudeau-style attacks on bodily autonomy and personal freedoms, and had influence on several countries around the world, not least Australia and New Zealand, where freedom activists also gathered outside their Parliament buildings in both Canberra and Wellington. For evidence of the huge numbers to arrive in Canberra, the largest protest being on Saturday, 12 February 2022, see this video uploaded to YouTube, Thousands converge on Canberra to stand for medical freedom.

In the week that followed, the ABC aired a summary of the events in Canberra on Leigh Sales' 7:30 Report. The 7:30 Reportwould admit that the series of ongoing protests in Canberra was clear evidence that there were many from all cross-sections of Australia who felt 'genuinely aggrieved by pandemic restrictions and vaccine mandates'. And while this 7:30 Reportdidn't commit to an estimate for the numbers present, simply quoting 'more than 10,000', the reporter did ask a very pertinent question with regard to how big and significant this growing anti-government sentiment really was. That is, could the movement sustain this momentum in the leadup to the coming federal election in May?

In which political parties do they trust?

It was clear that the freedom movement had felt betrayed by both major political parties, which were seen as colluding with each other and the mainstream media to create a single public narrative. Only one line of thinking was permitted in polite conversation: fear COVID, and fear each other. The prescription was for cold isolation, and the public was then directed through an intense media campaign towards faith in a trial vaccine program as the only solution.


The voices in Parliament who would dare to challenge the narrative and lend any support to the concerns of protesters were few, but they were clear. Federally, there were Senators Gerard Rennick, Alex Antic, and Matt Canavan from the Liberal/National coalition, who showed that the Coalition were allowing for some amount of independent thought on the issue. However, to be truly able to speak his mind freely, lower house MP, Craig Kelly left the Liberal party to become the main spokesperson for the United Australia Party.

In Victoria, it was upper house MP from the Liberal Democrats, David Limbrick, who became the Parliament's de facto opposition leader against Premier Dan Andrews' seeming willingness to keep the populace in a permanent state of emergency, or locked out of its workplace if it wasn't willing to submit to the experiment. While certain other MPs had also consistently voted against Andrews' draconian lockdown measures, especially those from the minor parties, such as Sustainable Australia, and Derryn Hinch's Justice Party, or against Andrews' new ongoing emergency powers, such as Labor outcast, Adem Somyrek, who later became a lead candidate for the Democratic Labour Party.

Therefore, hope arose for the freedom movement to give their electoral support to what became termed the 'freedom friendly' minor parties. Before the May 2022 federal election, grassroot support and party membership grew rapidly from amongst freedom advocates towards parties such as UAP, One Nation, and Liberal Democrats. Recognising the need to join forces and consolidate their vote, candidates from these smaller parties were often campaigning together, and educating their supporters to exchange each other's preference votes to support the other like-minded smaller parties. And with some limited success, as these preference votes shared were necessary to allow UAP candidate Ralph Babet to be elected to the Senate from Victoria.

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About the Author

Michael Viljoen works as a linguist/translator with Wycliffe Australia, an organisation committed to minority peoples and languages around the world in the fields of literacy, translation and literature production.

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