Like many Victorians I tuned in to Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ press conference yesterday morning, happy to hear the five-day lockdown here in Victoria is not to continue.
The Premier looked his best against a pretty green backdrop which I now know to be the Parliament House gardens. The setup was such that questions were inaudible and media invisible (at least as far as I watched). We just got Dan doing his rhetorical rhodomontade.[i]
He emphasised several times that his anti-COVID crusade had no political overtones. It was such a tranquil and balmy scene that you could almost forget that Dan and his team’s utter incompetence killed 800 vulnerable Victorians, and that his cabal’s incompetence with quarantine continues. Just watch other video of quarantined hotel people exiting to buses the other day with black bin-bags over their heads, either as Personal Protective Equipment or to protect their identity, who knows.
Andrews, who gets on well with Victoria’s docile media tribe, has not got over his humiliation by that scourge of the Left, Peta Credlin. You’ll remember how during the ridiculous inquiry into hotel quarantines, Credlin suggested the inquiry take a look at officials’ crucial phone records, a point Dan’s media chooks had totally never thought to ask about. Dan’s Premier’s Department secretary resigned virtually on the spot although the inquiry later found that nobody/nothing was responsible for anything/nothing.
Well there’s one serious journalist in Victoria, Avi Yemini, who is national bureau chief for Canadian-based Rebel News, run by free-speech warrior Ezra Levant. Avi is disliked by Dan’s Praetorian Guard, aka Victoria Police, but he has no fear of them, despite the previous encounter in the clip below.
He says his Australian channel has hundreds of thousands of fans, especially in Victoria. Since he’s been an Israeli Defence Force marksman, I imagine he’s dealt with tougher opponents than VicPol medium-weights. I must say his calmness under pressure is astounding and on top of that he can produce a stream of witticisms while daring coppers to arrest him and tangle with his lawyers.
Well, he’s the last person Dan would want at his press conference yesterday. Yahweh knows what embarrassing stuff Yemini might bring up.
So here in a nutshell is what was happening behind the scenes during Dan’s tranquil presser yesterday:
1/ Yemini was admitted to Parliament Gardens with his federal-government-issued media pass.
2/ But before he could reach the soon-to-start press conference amid its bucolic surrounds, he was swarmed by five Protective Services Officers (specialised quasi-police officers)[ii] who ordered him out because they believed “on reasonable grounds” that he threatened the “good order and security of Parliament”.
3/ While he was explaining that he merely intended to ask Dan some questions, Dan and his troupe approached from the other end of the path and passed within about 10 metres of Yemini en route to the presser. Yemini was able to ask Dan almost without raising his voice, whether Dan approved him being shut down from the presser to avert critical questions. Yemini also managed to ask Dan whether Dan’s tactic was more Chinese Communist than Victorian. Dan studiously avoided eye or any other human contact with Yemini and by-passed the Yemini/police crowd en route to his serried ranks of TV cameras.
4/ The PSOs, while unable to provide any ground for expelling or arresting Yemini, pleaded with him to go quietly so no media sensation would occur.
5/ Yemini got his lawyer Madelaine onto his cellphone loudspeaker. She asked the PSOs trenchantly what their “reasonable grounds” were for expelling him. Their leading light replied that Yemini wasn’t invited to the presser and might disrupt it. And he added, let’s hope he doesn’t get fired for it, “And the Premier’s Personal Assistant doesn’t want him here at the conferences.” (See transcript below).
6/ As Yemini can now truthfully assert: Dan’s satraps ordered PSOs and coppers to get rid of one of Dan’s politically-critical media attendees. That’s an interesting coda to Dan’s claims at the presser maybe 15 minutes later that his covid work was utterly devoid of political stagecraft.
7/ The embarrassed and jittery PSOs then called in the heavyweight coppers to get Yemini off their hands. The leading copper didn’t just get Yemini removed for no overt reason and banned from Parliament precincts for seven days. This police paragon claimed innocent citizen and reporter Yemini had entered via a fake pass and he (the copper) was going to, or had, revoke/d the fake pass, which as Yemini says, is a curious thing to do.
8/ All along, of course, the PSOs and police had their orders from Dan via his office to mis-use the Parliamentary Precincts Act (Section 16) to get rid of a reporter “on reasonable grounds” that the reporter might ask wrong questions.
9/ That’s Victoria, yesterday and today, or should we call it, “Danistan”.
All we’re waiting on now is saturation coverage of the affair by the ABC 7pm News, Leigh Sales’ 7.30, Laura Tingle via indignant tweets, Media Watch and Four Corners. Nor likely to make mention of this disgrace is The Australian, since it’s gone decidely left of late.
The video of the encounter is embedded at the foot of this page. Watch it by all means, but do make a point to first read selected excerpts from the transcript, which lay out in blunt and brutal black and white what happens when an arrogant premier, knowing his fixed four-year term means he cannot be turned out out of office until November 2022, uses a tame and trained VicPol as his personal bully squad.
Tony Thomas’s new book, Come To Think Of It – essays to tickle the brain, is available here as a book ($34.95) or an e-book ($14.95)
[i] rhodomontade – vain and empty boasting. braggadocio, rodomontade, bluster. boast, boasting, jactitation, self-praise – speaking of yourself in superlatives.
[ii] PSOs are sworn and armed officers with the same powers of arrest and use of force as police, but usually guarding specific official locations.
by Tony Thomas
Avi Yemini: This morning I was forcibly ejected from Daniel Andrews press conference on the order of his personal assistant.
Policeman: “The Premier’s PA doesn’t want him here at the conferences”.
AY: So, the Premier called his press conference for 10.15am in Parliament Gardens, so I got there a few minutes early…
After Security comes to the gate his identity and media credentials are double checked, signed off by a Protective Services Officer and he is allowed in].[i]
AY: But as I approached the garden where the rest of the media were waiting for the press conference to begin, a different group of PSOs suddenly surrounded and stopped me.
PSO: For security and good order I am an authorised officer under the Parliamentary Precincts Act, we are asking you to leave.
AY: I don’t understand, isn’t there a press conference…?
PSO: In the interests of security and good order of Parliament House.
AY: Hold on, you can’t shut down certain media. Hold on, I want an answer. You know who I am, Avi Yemini. On what grounds…?
PSO: As an authorised officer in the Parliamentary Precincts Act in the interest of security and good order…
AY: Is there a press conference here now?
AY: I am press. This is my press card.
PSO: That’s fine but I have just told you under Parliamentary Precincts Act…
AY: You can’t shut down media that is at a press conference.
PSO: I am not having a conversation with you now, I have asked you to leave.
AY: I am here for the press conference, just like all the other media.
PSO: So under powers of an authorised officer I am directing you to leave, not to enter. I believe on reasonable grounds ejection is necessary for the good order and security of Parliament.
AY: How is that in the best interests of good order?
PSO: I have just told you.
AY: How are you going to justify that? What am I going to do that is going to affect the good order…Asking questions to the Premier, is that? …
Yemini calls his lawyer, Madelaine, for advice. Five PSOs surround him. A call on their radio can be heard:
PSO: Are you guys on channel?
PSO to AY: Stand by, mate.
AY: I am not going anywhere, I am happy here, I am going to wait because what he is trying to do is unlawful. We are not in…You don’t have to like our network but you can’t expel us from a press conference.
AY to camera: Then suddenly I see Dan Andrews himself walking towards me.
Andrews and his close team walk down the path directly towards Yemeni’s cluster . At a distance of about 10 metres Andrew’s group turns onto a side path to the conference.
AY: Mr Premier, do you think it is OK for the media to be shut down at a press conference just because they criticised you? Mr Premier, are you OK with this? It seems a bit like Communist China, not Victoria.
AY (to camera): I didn’t realise at the time, why he didn’t even look my way as if purposely avoiding me. But as you are about to see, not only is the Premier personally OK with it [his office ordering Yemini’s removal]
… I have never seen such a thing from a democratic leader, removing journalists they don’t like.
AY to PSOs: Who is in charge? I can’t understand why I am not being allowed access to the press conference like all the other media.
PSO: No, it is not for me (to say?), it’s because you are disruptive.
AY: No, how was I disruptive if I was not even in there.
PSO: Let’s go. I am told you have been disruptive in the past.
AY: On what grounds when I have not even been to a press conference? ….
PSO: As an authorised officer I have said that was… let’s go. It is in my power to make you leave.
AY: And if I don’t leave?
PSO: You will be arrested.
AY: Under what…
PSO: Parliamentary Precincts Act for failure to comply with the Act.
POLICE RADIO: The Premier just now is doing his press conference. A male there is causing trouble.
AY: Your radio just said I am here causing trouble. How am I causing trouble? Why are you removing me?
PSO: In the interests of security and good order you are hindering us from doing our job right now.
AY: What is your job?
PSO: I am speaking to YOU
AY: I want to do MY job.
PSO: You can’t do that here, you can do it outside
AY: Why not?
PSO: Because I have said so.
AY: We have hundreds of thousands of followers. It is a news company.
PSO: I have seen you at events, mate
AY: Do you know that the only other police that remove media from press conferences to protect leaders is Communist China. Do you work for the CCP [Communist Party of China]?
PSO: Of course not.
AY: So why are you acting like it?
PSO: I am not.
AY: You are. Have I disrupted? I am absolutely not here to disrupt. I am here to ask questions for our thousands of subscribers who are Victorians who have the right to have their preferred news network at the press conference just like all the others (media).
At this point the PSO receives call on his two-way radio of which this can be heard: “He is not violent … not permitted”.
AY (to camera): “Not permitted”? It’s mental! You don’t have to like me, my style or my politics. I have never ever disrupted a press conference. I have never been violent on the job, in fact I am often the victim of violence and disruption at work.
Most importantly every one of our Victorian subscribers, all of you, deserve your preferred media outlet to be able to hold the government accountable. This is literally the point of press in a free society….
It gets worse as Yemini calls his lawyer.
AY: It would look pretty bad for you if you arrest a journalist at a press conference … What is it you are asking (for)?
PSO: You are not violent. I am not disputing that. (But) good order and security. I don’t know what questions you are going to ask….
PSO: I can talk to her ( lawyer Madelaine) if you like.
AY: Hi, Madelaine. So I was let into the grounds of Parliament with my press pass for the press conference with Dan Andrews. As I approached the actual conference I was swarmed by PSOs who are citing…
Madelaine to PSO: Are you citing the Parliamentary Precincts Act? What is it you are citing?
PSO: I am an authorised officer, I have the powers of an authorised officer. I am not saying removing, I am asking you to leave. If you don’t, we can forcibly remove you … If you don’t leave we can arrest you or forcibly remove you which we don’t want to do.
AY: What section (of the Act)?
PSO: Section 16, I think.
AY: He thinks! It is always a good sign when they think. Mate, I am not going.
PSO: How did you get in?
AY: My passes.
PSO: Your pass has been revoked.
AY: No, it is not
PSO: Yes it is.
AY (to camera): … that media pass, you all saw it and how I got in. I used my government-issued media pass, like any other journalist, a pass that he suddenly threatened to revoke on top of arresting me. You can’t make this stuff up.
AY (to PSO): What I have learned doing this is you guys don’t know the law.
PSO: I have just told you.
AY: She [Madelaine] is reading and reviewing it. We are going to see what their powers really are.
PSO: We know what our legal powers are.
AY: Mate, I have been arrested so many times by cops who don’t know their (legal) powers and currently we are fighting (cases) in the Supreme Court. You don’t know your laws. I think I will trust my lawyer…..
Lawyer Madelaine: So what is the belief?
PSO: I believe on reasonable grounds that he may disrupt the press conference. On those grounds I am exercising my powers as authorised officer under the Parliamentary Precincts Act in the interests of securing good order, I am asking him to leave. If he refuses to leave…
Madelaine: You don’t need to quote it, I have it in front of me. What are your ‘reasonable grounds’?
PSO: That he might disrupt the press conference and also he was not invited to these press conferences and the Premier’s Personal Assistant doesn’t want him here at the conferences. So they are the reasons.
Madelaine: OK, have you got a direction, have you been given a direction yourself to remove him?
PSO: No no, I am an authorised officer so I am giving that direction. I don’t want to arrest him physically nor forcibly remove him., which I have the power to do. I am just asking him if he can leave now.
Madelaine: No I just want really to clearly understand what the issue is. Basically, the Premier’s Personal Assistant doesn’t want him here, that seems to be the real trigger. OK, thanks, all right. I will have a chat to Avi.
Here, all decent Australians, be they left or right, should pause, collect their breath and note what has transpired: acting at the direct instruction of the Premier Andrews’ chief gofer and dogsbody, a member of the press has been singled out and banned because he might ask the questions that tame members of the press gang never do. But back to the transcript.
AY: The cops are here now
Police (correcting AY): “Police”.
AY: Police. A sergeant.
Sergeant: Start walking. You have to get off the grounds. You are not meant to be here.
AY to Madelaine: OK. Bye.
Sergeant: Let’s go for a walk, Avi, outside the grounds.
AY: Do you want to ‘cuff me and take me…?
Sergeant: No. You are also banned from here for a period of seven days, you are not permitted to return here for seven days. It is on film (presumably security cameras).
AY: Who advised that as well?
Sergeant: Authorised officers of Parliament House. That is me.
AY: Where are the boundaries that this journalist can’t…
Sergeant: You are not allowed on the footpath. [Points].
AY (to camera): An authorised officer of Parliament has banned a journalist that the government doesn’t like (laughs), (Dan or Sgt) doesn’t even seem like a fan, he’s watched a few (of AY’s clips?)…
Sergeant: You have come in here with a fake pass on, you have accessed grounds…
AY: Hold on! no no no no no no no no!
Sergeant: You are being removed…
AY: Hold on, how is it a fake pass? It says on the top there…
Sergeant: It is not a security pass. It says that on the top.
AY (to camera): They asked me for my media pass, how is that (pass) fake? It is issued by the Federal Government.
First he claimed it is being revoked, I am not sure how a ‘fake pass’ can be revoked, but we all know the truth that they were ordered to remove me from the press conference by Dan Andrews’ personal assistant. Now they are banning me from the entire grounds including the footpath out front, for goodness sake, for seven days on the command of the Premiers personal assistant.
[i] PSO’s are sworn and armed officers with the same powers of arrest and use of force as police, but usually guarding specific locations such as railway stations.