Sunday, 25 February 2018

A Violent Joke

George Christensen's post

Last week, George Christensen posted on Facebook a photograph of himself aiming a pistol, with the caption 'You gotta ask yourself, do you feel lucky, greenie punks?'

It was the day after a school massacre in Florida.

Christensen is the LNP MP for Dawson, in Queensland. He caucuses with the National Party.

The Prime Minister described Christensen's post as 'very inappropriate'.

Christensen refused to apologise, describing the post as a 'joke'. It is not so clear that was the original intention.

He edited the caption to read 'You gotta ask yourself, do you have a sense of humour, greenie punks?' A short time later he deleted the post.

The post was referred to police. Queensland police quickly announced they would take no action. At the time of writing, the AFP are still considering the matter.

Following Christensen's post, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young received an email, with the subject 'bullets' that read: 'Hopefully George has one left in the chamber to fire directly into your vagina you hysterical fucking cunt'.

Christensen's post is no joke.

Christensen's gun-pointing threat to 'greenie punks' comes in a context. There has been sustained and serious violence against Greens and environmental protesters over many years. Most has been perpetrated by the very people to whom Christensen appeals for votes.

In March 1986, during the protests against the Farmhouse Creek logging in Tasmania, Bob Brown was walking down a bush road with conservationist Judy Richter and journalist Hugh Maclean. Shots rang out, evidently aimed at Bob. Maclean, with his Vietnam training, immediately dropped to the mud, leaving the other two standing in shock. Later the shooter was arrested. He was charged with discharging a firearm on a Sunday and fined $200.

Bob Brown manhandled by loggers at Farmhouse Creek in 1986. Later he was shot at.

In January 1990 I was present in a conservationists' camp when two shots were fired in the bush close by. The perpetrator made off. Police in Orbost refused even to take a statement.

In 1991 two cars belonging to conservationists were destroyed by gelignite in the East Picton forest of Tasmania.

In the late 1990s an attempt was made to sabotage the aircraft of Vince Jones, the jazz singer. He lived near Buchan, and was vocal about logging. Steel wool was cut up and deposited in his light aircraft's fuel tank.

In December 1998 Adrian Whitehead was assaulted with an axe handle by a logger. He had been conducting a botanical survey at the time. Despite having an independent witness, the police refused to lay charges.

Adrian Whitehead after being bashed by a logger

After midnight on 3 December 1998 a group of loggers smashed up a campsite of conservationists in the Otways, yelled threats, and drove a vehicle into a tent occupied by two female conservationists who feared for their lives. One logger was subsequently charged and convicted in relation to this incident.

In December 1998 Peter Stienke (“Fisherman Pete”) was by himself minding a conservationists’ camp at Goolengook over Christmas. His car was found at the camp with the door open and food and drinks on the passenger seat. Despite a search by police, Fisherman Pete was never found and is missing, presumed dead. He left a 14 year old son.

On 20 February 2000, some 40 to 50 loggers - some with their children - converged from Orbost and Bombala on a conservationists’ camp in the forest of East Gippsland. They trashed the camp and beat up a Canadian tourist who was there. A carload of conservationists drove up. The conservationists were violently attacked and the car reduced to a wreck. The loggers caused severe injuries to two persons, and threatened to rape the women present.

Much of this was recorded on audio, and it makes chilling listening. The out of control ranting of the loggers, the smashing of iron bars against machinery and people – and the futile attempts of the conservationists to calm the loggers down.

Some of the loggers were identified and later convicted.

On 2 April 2000 loggers wielding baseball bats and axe handles attacked a conservationists' camp at Middle Spur in the Otway Ranges. Police and ambulance were called. Some twenty conservationists were injured, five being hospitalised.

In October 2008 logging vigilantes firebombed two cars belonging to conservationists that were parked on the Strathgordon Road in the Upper Florentine Valley.

There is nothing funny about George Christensen's gunwielding antics against Greenies. Exhortations to violence – whether against greenies, blacks, women, Jews, gays, or any other group in society – are shameful. 'Jokes' like this give licence to those who are inclined to resort to violence, and there are too many of those already.

Political appeals based on violence have a way of spiralling into enormous harm. I can only hope Christensen's gun-toting example will not lead to further violence against conservationists. 

I very much fear it will.

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