‘Can’t disagree more’: Protesters lashed by Karl
Today host Karl Stefanovic has lashed the tens of thousands of Australians who protested against racism and police brutality over the weekend, labelling them "irresponsible".
The TV host's reaction came off the back of yesterday's comments from Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who called protesters "selfish" and "self-indulgent".
Stefanovic discussed the protests on Today with NT senator Malarndirri McCarthy and journalist Jessica Irvine, who both argued the protests should've gone ahead.
"We're allowed to go to the pub, we're talking about reopening footy, if we're talking about reopening these things then we need to allow people to exercise their democratic rights to protest," Irvine said.
"I can't disagree with you both more," Stefanovic replied.
"I get the need to protest and I'm obviously not a First Nations person but we have these rules in place to protect our society form this awful, awful virus. We've done the right thing, we can't allow a protest right now...it's irresponsible isn't it?"
But Senator McCarthy maintained the protests had been managed responsibly with organisers handing out masks and hand sanitiser to everyone across the country to make sure people were protected.
"This has been thoroughly organised - both from the rallies point of view but also in terms of dealing with COVID-19. We know we have to be sensible but come on Karl, seriously?
"We're four months into dealing with this and if we as a country don't feel confident in the way we're trying to handle this pandemic, when will we?"
"This issue resonates far deeper than any other issue in Australia and around the world... It is time to get on board or get out of the way." @Malarndirri19 on the Black Lives Matter protests that took place on the weekend. #9Today pic.twitter.com/hu3Mt5ABqS— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) June 7, 2020
Senator Cormann later appeared on Today to respond to the backlash and Senator McCarthy's comments.
"These sorts of mass gatherings, at a time when there are still severe restrictions all around Australia, on people generally, does expose our community to an unacceptable and unnecessary risk," he said.
"It is completely and utterly inconsistent with what is expected of everybody else right around Australia, and so from that point of view, I think there has to be a reality check here.
"The issue at hand is a very important and legitimate issue, of course. That is not the question. But right now, in the middle of a pandemic, to pursue these sorts of mass gatherings is completely reckless and irresponsible."
Labor yesterday attacked Mr Cormann for his comments on protesters.
Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney described his comments as "tone deaf" and "politically expedient".
"I am not going to get into a to and fro between myself and Mathias Cormann, except to say that it would be helpful, I think, for him to look at the record and look at what the reality is in the state that he represents," she said.
Health authorities are waiting to see if Black Lives Matter protests across the nation have undermined the containment of COVID-19 in Australia.
Just a handful of new cases were reported on the weekend, but it will be nearly a fortnight before it is known if there are any spikes in cases as a result of the rallies where social distancing was almost impossible.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says while he can understand why people joined the protests, health authorities now have to be extra alert.
"We don't know if anyone in those mass gatherings were infected or infectious, and so it is a wait-and-see approach," Prof Kelly told reporters in Canberra yesterday.
"I was encouraged to see the face masks yesterday ... those people we're doing the right thing."
Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen agreed the Black Lives Matter protest in Melbourne increased the risk for cases.
"In terms of potential outbreaks related to the protest, it really will be at least a week and probably closer to two weeks before we have an idea of whether there's been any transmissions or outbreaks related to that," Dr van Diemen said.
Twenty thousand people also marched in Sydney and crowds rallied in Brisbane, Adelaide and some regional cities and towns despite public health warnings.
The Australian protests in solidarity with African-American George Floyd who was killed while being arrested in Minneapolis, also showed support for the Aboriginal community to highlight high levels of indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody.
Originally published as 'Can't disagree more': Protesters lashed