Zoe Lee Buhler 800px

You may have seen the video recording of the arrest of Zoe Lee Buhler by the Victorian police.

Zoe is a 27-year-old mother who was at home, dressed in her pyjamas when the police called with a search warrant. She was handcuffed and arrested for “incitement” while her children and partner watched. Zoe is pregnant and was due to have an ultrasound an hour later.

Caroline Overington, a columnist with The Australian, called Zoe’s arrest “dictatorial and dangerous.” Zoe’s alleged crime? She was one of thousands of people who have been frustrated with Victoria’s draconian lockdown laws. She put a post on Facebook about a “Freedom Day” in Ballarat last weekend.

The only reason we know about her arrest is that her partner live-streamed the incident until the police confiscated his mobile phone. How many other Victorian homes did police raid in this brutal way?

Murray Gleeson, former chief justice of the High Court of Australia, has said it would be wrong to use the procedure of arrest or warrant unless police reasonably suspect that the accused person would fail to turn up at court.

If Zoe had to be charged, why use the harsh process of handcuffs and arrest, rather than a simple summons? And why not simply accept Zoe’s offer to remove her Facebook post?

Victoria has “All the hallmarks of a police state” said an editorial in The Australian:

This time last year, the idea that any Australian police force would arrest and handcuff a pregnant woman at home in her pyjamas, in front of her children, in a provincial city, for a Facebook post, would have defied credulity.

The pandemic, however, has brought an incremental erosion of civil liberties, especially in Victoria. The heat has been turned up gradually, to the point Victorians are living a dystopian nightmare. House arrest for 23 hours a day, working (if they still have a job) at home while they homeschool children; an 8pm curfew; isolation if they live alone; no visiting friends or family. Many people, understandably, are too fraught to add another worry — the encroaching police state — to their burdens.

Others, alarmed that their state has crossed a dangerous line, are outraged. Professionals at the coalface, such as the medical practitioners who have signed a letter noting the dangers to citizens’ physical and mental health posed by restrictions, are increasingly concerned for the sick and vulnerable.

A serious problem with leaders who grasp draconian powers is that they are most reluctant to give them up. Dictator Dan, as some call him, has just secured a 6-month extension of his state of emergency. It narrowly passed the Victorian upper house, 20:19, last Wednesday.

It is time to draw a line in the sand.

Peter Downie
National Director - FamilyVoice Australia