MP retreats on ‘conspiracy’ claim
A Victorian Liberal MP has been forced to dial back his claim that the state's snap five-day lockdown was "not about the virus".
Western Metropolitan Legislative Council member Bernie Finn appeared at an online protest on Wednesday night organised by an activist group called Reignite Democracy Australia.
During a short clip played during the protest, Mr Finn claimed the recent snap lockdown in Victoria - which was triggered by a cluster of cases escaping from the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel - was "certainly not about a virus".
"Hard-line socialists … like Daniel Andrews … don't like small business," he told the group, which has almost 60,000 followers on Facebook.
"Maybe, just maybe, it is all about that."
But Mr Finn was forced to walk back the comments the following day, with a spokesman for the Victorian MLC releasing a statement blaming hotel quarantine and contact tracing failures for the lockdown.
"The reason Victoria was plunged into a third lockdown was due to more stuff-ups by Andrews and his government in hotel quarantine and failures in contact tracing," the spokesman said.
"Everyone needs to follow the health advice.
"However, there would have been no need for a third lockdown if Labor had fixed the countless mistakes they continue to make in hotel quarantine."
Mr Finn also doubled down on criticism of the government's push to extend the state of emergency until December.
"To think that Andrews is seeking a blank cheque with state of emergency powers until the end of the year should send a chill down the spine of all Victorians," he said.
"As long as Daniel Andrews has the state of emergency in place more lockdowns will come, he won't be able to help himself.
"He will pull the plug on our lives at a moment's notice and it is just appalling."
Liberal Polwarth MP Richard Riordan and Liberal upper house member Bev McArthur also spoke at the online protest.
Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said he didn't have a problem with his MPs speaking to groups.
"But I want them to be out there talking about sound public health advice," he said.
"What I'm saying is that we should never have had the lockdown because the government should have done its job properly."
In response to a question from the opposition in parliament on Thursday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said: "And here I was thinking that the only conspiracy theorist from that outfit over there was Bernie Finn."
The Premier also told reporters on Thursday that Mr Finn's comments about small business were "simply wrong".
"Even Scott Morrison dealt with Craig Kelly, it's time Michael O'Brien dealt with Bernie Finn," he said.
Reignite Democracy Australia was founded by Monica Smit in response to what she said was the Victorian government's "catastrophic" handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They say they are "not anti or pro-vax" but "pro-choice".
The group has also campaigned against mandatory mask rules, lockdown restrictions and sponsored a bus during the state's second lockdown that acted as a mobile billboard calling for Mr Andrews to be sacked.
Originally published as MP retreats on 'conspiracy' claim