The government MP George Christensen billed taxpayers $1,600 to travel to the Great Barrier Reef and meet the far-right identity Lauren Southern but the controversial YouTuber “pulled the pin” on the appearance.
The latest records of MPs’ financial interests reveal that Christensen accepted a free “reef trip from Cairns to Great Barrier Reef” from a company named Axiomatic Events.
Axiomatic had arranged for Southern to meet up with Christensen, Dr Peter Ridd, a controversial marine scientist, and some local young conservatives on 16 July 2018, leaving from Cairns and taking a fishing charter out to the reef.
But Southern declined to interview Christensen during the trip. He instead posted a video of him and Ridd, out on the reef together.
Christensen has only just this week declared that Axiomatic paid for the boat trip, more than a year after it took place. Other costs appear to have been picked up by taxpayers.
Southern’s far-right associations, her promotion of the key ideas of white ethnonationalism, and her willingness to become directly involved in racial provocation should give us pause.
So, too, should the willingness of News Corporation’s daily newspapers to promote her.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Andrew Bolt railed about her visa problems. Nor that Miranda Devine had Southern on her podcast to talk about how antifa and Muslims cause her immigration woes.
But earlier puff pieces about her visit, and op-eds defending her in regional newspapers, suggest that News has a disturbing inability to distinguish between ordinary, conservative provocateurs, and those adjacent to white nationalist or fascist movements.
This fits with a pattern on the Australian right. Nevertheless, should News later condemn those who protest against Southern’s appearances, we should remember their role in defending Southern, and advertising her shows.