'Are you serious?' Q&A panellists' fiery clash over linking coronavirus to protests

·3-min read

Monday night’s episode of Q&A quickly turned ugly as Greens Leader Adam Bandt clashed with Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson over their differing stances on Melbourne’s Black Lives Matter protest taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Bandt unleashed a fiery yet calculated tirade on Ms Henderson after she hit out at Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews’ “double standards” for not taking hard action on the thousands of people who lined Melbourne’s CBD in June.

“Are you serious Sarah?” he began, before accusing sections of the Liberal Party of “channelling [US President Donald] Trump”.

Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson, left, and Greens Leader Adam Bandt, right, clashed on Monday night. Source: ABC
Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson and Greens Leader Adam Bandt clashed on Monday night. Source: ABC

Mr Bandt suggested it was the Liberal government who had contradicting outlooks on the Black Lives Matter protest, referencing Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s push to get the economy going again while suggesting sections of the Liberal Party lambasted Victoria’s Labor Party for their perceived inaction during the rally.

“This is coming from a party that has been shouting from the rooftops saying we need to open up the borders and ease restrictions and get out from under the doona,” he said.

Mr Bandt accused the Liberals of “trying to use an issue that you disagree with to push a barrow that’s really got nothing to do with the health response”.

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“I think it’s shades of Peter Dutton and talking about African gangs in Melbourne.”

As Ms Henderson sighed in disagreement before calling for host Hamish Macdonald to step in, CEO of the Tourism and Transport Forum Margy Osmond interrupted to slam both over the argument.

“I thought we established this kind of political point scoring, this is what the public have said they‘re not interested in,” she said.

“You have given us the perfect example of what we don‘t want to hear.”

Their disagreement had initially been triggered by a question from a member of the public who asked if politicians have tried to use the pandemic to score political points.

Ms Henderson said there were "double standards" over the handling of the BLM protests and other public gatherings. Source: AAP
Ms Henderson said there were "double standards" over the handling of the BLM protests and other public gatherings. Source: AAP

Q&A host takes robust approach with Liberal Senator

Macdonald had earlier issued an on-air apology to Ms Henderson, saying the program had incorrectly said online that she had linked the current spike in infections to the BLM protest.

However a persistent Macdonald pushed the Senator to categorically say she “accepted the facts” there is no link, reading out a statement from health authorities to say there is “no evidence” positive cases from the BLM rally were acquired during the event.

“Hamish can you please not suggest that I don’t accept the facts?” she hit back.

Hamish Macdonald struggled to get a straight answer out of Ms Henderson on several occasions. Source: ABC
Hamish Macdonald struggled to get a straight answer out of Ms Henderson on several occasions. Source: ABC

“You’re not actually listening to what I said.

“It sent out the wrong message that not all people are equal under the same law.”

Macdonald had earlier clashed with Ms Henderson after she deflected questioning on why there was a larger police presence than public health officials during the operation to implement a hard lockdown on nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne as cases began to soar earlier this month.

”I think we do need to get an answer to Omar‘s question which is about the imbalance he saw,” Macdonald pushed.

While noting some residents were unable to access food or care “quickly”, she again praised the police response.

“They have been incredible.”

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