Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius speaks to the social-distancing media pack to say people promoting proposed anti-lockdown demonstrations are in breach of emergency laws and will be locked up.
“The tinfoil hat-wearing brigade are alive and well in our community. They’re taking every opportunity to leverage the current situation to serve their own ridiculous notions about so-called sovereign citizens, about constitutional issues and about how 5G is going to kill your grandkids,” he said.
“It’s batshit crazy nonsense.”
A quick check of the Victorian Crimes Act (1958) indicates being batshit crazy is not a criminal offence – not for bats, or people wearing tin hats, or even people who think they are bats.
And the trouble with the tinfoil hat-wearing brigade is they actually do not believe their striking headwear is in any way unusual.
Indeed, such statements may only encourage the deluded into direct action.
The very experienced and very wise former Senior Sergeant John “The Pope” Morrish would instruct his younger troops, “Always please and never tease a fool”.
Senior police have issued instructions to take a firm line with Corona Roamers. They will charge those who incite disobedience and those who want to film their own conspiracy rants as a Facebook version of the Gettysburg Address.
Cops won’t argue the toss. Take it up with the courts, they say. When police collared the Conspiracy Karens we collectively cheered. But it can only take one case to tip the balance.
Pregnant women Zoe Lee Buhler is arrested in her pink flannelette pyjamas by mask wearing police for apparently promoting a planned anti-lockdown rally. She is charged with incitement and later bailed.
As is the modern way, when police arrive at her Ballarat home with a search warrant she goes for her phone, not to ring a lawyer, but to record the moment.
The police inform her of her rights then handcuff her hands behind her back. She and her partner react with shock while remaining conciliatory and courteous.
The police do not engage or negotiate. Her partner says she will take the post down. She obviously is unaware she has broken any rules. The police, quite calmly it should be said, explain they have a search warrant and she will be arrested.
By the letter of the law they are right. Luke Cornelius later goes into bat for them. But do we want PJ-wearing mums cuffed in their own homes for dumb social media posts?
A few people saw her call to arms. Millions have seen the subsequent arrest and her pyjama-clad arms being locked in handcuffs.
Rather than deter, it encourages the anti-lockdown brigade and makes the police look very close to oppressors for enforcing the new-normal laws. Expect a run on tinfoil at the supermarkets.
In the UK, experts told the government a COVID lockdown would last six weeks before people started to rebel.
In the last two weeks police here have seen a spike in people trying to beat curfews or just being a little bit batshit crazy.
The government, the experts and the anti-tinfoilers have all called for sacrifices for the health of all of us and our long-term economic recovery. But does that necessarily include free speech?
John Silvester is senior crime reporter.