19th December 2020

As a general rule, the views of journalist Steve Price seem to be a voice of reason, but this time he has got it wrong, and we cannot let it pass without comment.

Price seems to have led the pile-on of other journalists and commentators on Chief Commissioner Shane Patton’s decision over the Black Lives Matter rally, but he has based his argument on specious foundations.

He has omitted some facts, manipulated others and failed to recognise a positive that is so rare that it should have been the headline for his article instead of, ‘A matter of unease’, in the Herald Sun 19/12/20.

There would be no clear thinking objective Victorian who witnessed the Premier delivering his comment about the proposed BLM rally who did not accept it was tantamount to approval, a wink and a nod. The words alone may have been problematic, but the style of delivery and the body language amounted to a clear acquiesce to the demonstration.

The Premiers performance was omitted by Price. However, it would have played into the decision making by Patton as a pivotal issue, and rightly so.

Police would have been confronted with demonstrators who would have very conveniently extrapolated out the Premier’s ill-judged comments as support for their actions. So the police would be dealing with, noggin heads, believing they had the right and the might from a higher authority than the police, a guaranteed recipe for conflict.

A mindset that could well lead to the serious violence that Patton feared, leading him to exercise the discretion police have.

We have confidence in the ability of Patton, but we do not rate him as a deity.

It would seem however that Price thinks he should be, and can predict that disastrous break out of COVID from the quarantine hotels that happened nearly two weeks after the BLM demonstration that caused the mother of all lockdowns as a consequence that is and was irrelevant to the Patton decision and remains so.

There is no doubt a different decision would be made by Patton, had he had the foresight of a divine being, capable of predicting the impending disaster. Price is totally disingenuous in basing his argument on that spurious assumption.

The article is also peppered with references to, ‘otherwise law-abiding citizens’ as though breaking the Law imposed for COVID was acceptable, and enforcing that Law was somehow wrong. A bit like the mentality towards .05% and Speed cameras when they were first introduced, both attracting the ire of ‘otherwise law-abiding citizens’.

Deriding the policing function is both ill-informed and offensive to all police who are recognised as essential and expected to put their own safety ahead of the community, something they regularly willingly do.

It isn’t easy to comprehend how allegedly otherwise intelligent people, miss a critical point in this debate. Police do not make any laws, and least of all, the ones surrounding the State of Emergency declared to combat the COVID Pandemic.

If you disagree with some aspects of the COVID rules, then speak to your politicians, they make the rules do not criticise the police for the Law.

Furthermore, you have no divine right to beak a law because you are an ‘otherwise law-abiding citizen’ this concept is arrant nonsense. The only relevance to ‘otherwise law-abiding citizen’ is when the Judge is considering a penalty to impose for a breach of the Law. Then the ‘otherwise Law-abiding citizen’ concept may carry some weight, but that only relates to the punishment, not the guilt.

It does not matter who you think you are; if you break the Law, there are consequences, a concept Price may struggle with.

The accurate history of the Pandemic will record that Patton’s decision, turned out to be the right one, so why the confected pile-on?

It may have something to do with Patton behaving contrary to the norm for senior officials of this State; he has broken the mould. Patton has taken the bold step, to be honest, and accept responsibility and accountability for his decision. He forgot to use the normal, circumvention (spin) or the now infamous, ‘I can’t recall’, the approach we have come to expect.

This refreshing frankness and acceptance of accountability is something that commentators will need to adjust to as Patton is his own man and accepts responsibility.

We can only hope that this character strength is contagious, but I doubt it.