About Alexandra Tselios

Founder and CEO of The Big Smoke, Alexandra oversees the leading digital content platform in both Australia and the USA. As a social and technology commentator, she is interviewed most days of the week on radio and appears on ABC's The Drum and ABC News24. Alexandra is also a Director of NFP think tank, Plus61J, which explores the political and social ties between Australia and Israel; and sits on the board of Estate-Planning FinTech start-up NowSorted.

Last Friday, Julie Bishop “dared to show her face” at Sydney University following the budget release on Tuesday evening.

I use the word “dared” as that is the way she was perceived – not only by the people on campus at the time, but also in later recounts of the experience on social media. Christopher Pyne called it an ‘assault’.

She was mobbed, in fact the word used by the press was “accosted,” and I was personally disgusted. I was obviously disappointed in the behaviour of the university students – it seemed like a misguided attempt at a protest. In actuality, it was simply an act of intimidation and aggressive bullying. I thought (hoped) it was likely to be just a one-off incident. I remembered the outrage was palpable when a sandwich was thrown at ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard – yet, when directed at Coalition MP’s, it seems this behaviour is more palatable for the general public.

Then the news hit that ex-Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella was targeted by protesters when visiting Melbourne University, where she is an academic fellow. Herein lies the crux of my issue with how these protests are being conducted: they just sound like violent, angry voices. Surely it is completely unacceptable to accost a person, even if it is someone you feel is the antithesis of who you are politically? Surely, people cannot defend these actions under the guise of “free speech” and democracy? Please also note, I am not standing up for Julie Bishop, Sophie Mirabella or the 2014 budget. I understand people are scared. I know people feel they currently have no control in this or right of reply.

Hearing about the March in May protest that occurred on Sunday, I thought it fantastic that Australians were taking a stand against what they believe is unacceptable behaviour by the Coalition and its unacceptable budget cuts. If you don’t agree with the budget, and believe me I don’t agree with aspects of it, Australians should have the right of reply and it will be interesting to see what policies actually come into fruition. However, physically intimidating a member because they dared exercise their democratic right to speak on behalf of their political party is not protesting.

It’s called assault.

I think it is also funny, that the same people who are happy to accost another person publicly while they are carrying out their political duties will also similarly publicly denounce Christopher Pyne for (allegedly) saying the “C word” in parliament, while if a member of the party these people align with had said it, I would imagine the Facebook shares would be more along the lines of “What a champion,” cos you know, ‘straya.

I am not saying that we should accept what the Coalition is doing quietly. I know many are disgusted, while others feel the budget is leading Australia in a better direction. I am not suggesting anyone diffuse their passion – I am simply suggesting directing your passion and getting the attention many want in a way that actually garners results. Instead of kicking, screaming and spitting at an MP, how about finding ways to lead change, or at least contribute in a smarter way?

These are the same frustrations I had at those claiming Tony Abbott stood there with a sign saying “Ditch the Bitch”, then the story changed slightly to “Ditch the Witch”, and then as it turned out, it was his supporters holding the sign – terrible, but I just want to hear the facts, that is all – from both sides.

However, I just don’t know in what warped world that it is less justifiable than the “Kill Abbott” signs.

Are we serious here?

I actually don’t care what your sign says, sometimes they are ridiculously funny, sometimes they are just ridiculously offensive and combative – but regardless, people have the right to hold that damn sign up.

What I don’t believe people have the right to do, is bully, intimidate and swarm others. Violence is unacceptable and is never okay, whatever political persuasion you align with.

Demand change!

Protest!

Make your voice heard!

Be the vigilante you so desperately want to be!

But don’t be a bloody violent dickhead.