‘My inbox is pretty full,

but I’ve been spared

the violent threats’

Tim Read in Brunswick last Friday.

Brunswick MP has no regrets about supporting pandemic Bill despite hate mail

Mark Phillips
Monday, November 22, 2021

CRITICISM comes with the territory when you seek public office, but Brunswick MP Tim Read says he has never seen anything like the violent threats made last week against politicians who support the Andrews Government’s controversial pandemic legislation.

Like many other MPs, Dr Read’s inbox was full of hate mail at the end of last week, one of the most dramatic in recent Victorian political history – although he hastens to add the comments he was sent were nothing like the torrent of abuse directed at his female colleagues.

But Dr Read says he has no regrets about speaking out in support of the legislation, which would allow the Health Minister to take actions restricting freedoms after the declaration of a pandemic emergency.

As the only medical doctor in State Parliament, the measured and quietly spoken Dr Read took it upon himself to advocate on public health grounds in favour of the Bill, which has now stalled due to the government’s failure to secure enough votes to ensure its passage through the upper house.

The reaction to the Bill from a small minority – which has included death threats towards the Premier and cross-bench MPs, including his Greens colleague Samantha Ratnam – has led Dr Read to voice concerns about the polarisation of politics and the direction it is heading.

In a wide-ranging interview to mark 12 months until the next state election, Dr Read was scathing of multi-millionaire Clive Palmer and his United Australia Party who he said were deliberately exploiting people’s fears and weariness about lockdowns to turn them against science and public health.

It was concerning that the state Opposition and some cross-benchers had been “swept along” and were so out of step with the vast majority of Victorians who supported the main measures taken by the government to control the spread of the virus over the past two years, Dr Read said.

“My inbox is pretty full, but I’ve been spared the violent threats. My female colleagues get much worse stuff. There’s a frighteningly gendered aspect to this abuse. That’s really upsetting.

“This has been the worst week of my three years in Parliament but it does show the importance of standing up for what you believe in. I’m still confident we’ll find a way through somehow.”

He added the violent tactics employed by opponents of the pandemic Bill “doesn’t bode well for other things we have to do collectively as a society to confront other challenges whether it’s climate change or anything else”.

On the other hand, Dr Read said he had also been sent messages of thanks from doctors and nurses in public hospitals. He admits the legislation could be improved, but there was no doubt public health powers would be needed next year if there was another wave of high infection numbers from the virus.

Despite the political turmoil and partisanship that has been generated by the COVID-19 pandemic more recently, he said the overall response by all levels of government, whatever their stripes, over 18 months also gave some cause for optimism.

“It’s really impressive our governments have adapted so quickly to COVID and it just shows what we can do if we want to tackle major problems.”

Taking nothing for granted

When Victorians go to the polls on November 26 next year, Dr Read will be seeking a second term after his historic victory in 2018 which ended 114 years of the seat of Brunswick being in Labor hands.

The 2018 election was Dr Read’s second tilt at Brunswick (he also ran unsuccessfully for the federal seat of Wills). He narrowly won with a margin of just 0.57%.

“The Greens vote in Brunswick had been going up for probably 15 years before we were ultimately successful so it was always going to happen,” he said. “It was just a case of which election and I think [incumbent MP] Jane [Garrett] shifting to a different seat was the final bit of help we needed.”

He is now one of three lower house Greens MPs, but at the same election, the party went from five upper house members to one due to preference flows working against it. Statewide, the party’s vote is consistently between 9% and 11%.

A recent redrawing of election boundaries has handed Dr Read an increased nominal margin of 2.3%, but he is taking nothing for granted.

“I don’t think we will ever have as many rusted on voters as other parties, so we’re unlikely to have many safe seats,” he said. “We have got to win each seat every time.”

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“I see my most important role in Parliament is to keep pushing the government and to provide political pain on these kinds of issues to get outcomes.”

Dr Read concedes the past three years have been frustrating as many of the things he hoped to do in Parliament were interrupted or derailed by the pandemic.

He says the Greens often fail to get their due credit for policies that are adopted by whichever party is in government, but he is proud of some modest wins such as a container deposit scheme, removing exemptions under the Equal Opportunity Act that would have allowed religious schools to fire gay or lesbian teachers, or recent work to modify parts of the pandemic legislation.

“I see my most important role in Parliament is to keep pushing the government and to provide political pain on these kinds of issues to get outcomes.

“While we don’t always see the outcomes as quickly as we want to, they suddenly pop up often when you least expect them.”

Twelve months out from the next election, Dr Read believes the battle for Brunswick will be determined by which party voters believe has the best policies on statewide issues such as the environment.

“I don’t think people vote Green much for local issues. I’m very interested in local issues but I feel as though the big driver for Greens supporters will be wanting to see climate action and that will be one, two and three on their list.”

One local issue that Dr Read will have no hesitation about campaigning on again next year is the removal of on-street parking to create a separated bike path in Sydney Road.

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Dr Read believes it is inevitable that bicycle safety will be improved in Brunswick’s main arterial road once tram super stops are built and one day people will wonder what the fuss was about.

He said there was an abundance of off-street parking directly behind many shops in Sydney Road, and the space used by cars would be better allocated to walking, riding and outdoor dining.

“The government’s stubbornness, silence and stalling on the issue would have been one of the most frustrating things [in his three years in Parliament] but I know that in 20 years’ time, Sydney Road will be a lot different and I just want to see it happen sooner than that.”

Labor yet to announce candidate

Dr Read was briefly a member of the Labor Party in the 1990s in what he describes as “a burst of youthful enthusiasm”.

But when he became interested in politics again a decade or so later, it was the Greens that most appealed to him because of their unambiguous stance on global warming and climate change.

From there, it was a short step to seeking public office.

The Labor Party is yet to pre-select a candidate for next year’s election.

“I’m sure it will be a good one, whoever it is,” Dr Read said. “You generally end up getting on quite well with each other. You go to the same events and have good conversations and whoever it is, I look forward to meeting them.”

Politics / Interview

‘My inbox is pretty full, but I’ve been spared the violent threats’

Brunswick MP has no regrets about supporting pandemic Bill despite hate mail

Tim Read in Brunswick on Friday.

Mark Phillips
Monday, November 22, 2021

CRITICISM comes with the territory when you seek public office, but Brunswick MP Tim Read says he has never seen anything like the violent threats made last week against politicians who support the Andrews Government’s controversial pandemic legislation.

Like many other MPs, Dr Read’s inbox was full of hate mail at the end of last week, one of the most dramatic in recent Victorian political history – although he hastens to add the comments he was sent were nothing like the torrent of abuse directed at his female colleagues.

But Dr Read says he has no regrets about speaking out in support of the legislation, which would allow the Health Minister to take actions restricting freedoms after the declaration of a pandemic emergency.

As the only medical doctor in State Parliament, the measured and quietly spoken Dr Read took it upon himself to advocate on public health grounds in favour of the Bill, which has now stalled due to the government’s failure to secure enough votes to ensure its passage through the upper house.

The reaction to the Bill from a small minority – which has included death threats towards the Premier and cross-bench MPs, including his Greens colleague Samantha Ratnam – has led Dr Read to voice concerns about the polarisation of politics and the direction it is heading.

In a wide-ranging interview to mark 12 months until the next state election, Dr Read was scathing of multi-millionaire Clive Palmer and his United Australia Party who he said were deliberately exploiting people’s fears and weariness about lockdowns to turn them against science and public health.

It was concerning that the state Opposition and some cross-benchers had been “swept along” and were so out of step with the vast majority of Victorians who supported the main measures taken by the government to control the spread of the virus over the past two years, Dr Read said.

“My inbox is pretty full, but I’ve been spared the violent threats. My female colleagues get much worse stuff. There’s a frighteningly gendered aspect to this abuse. That’s really upsetting.

“This has been the worst week of my three years in Parliament but it does show the importance of standing up for what you believe in. I’m still confident we’ll find a way through somehow.”

He added the violent tactics employed by opponents of the pandemic Bill “doesn’t bode well for other things we have to do collectively as a society to confront other challenges whether it’s climate change or anything else”.

On the other hand, Dr Read said he had also been sent messages of thanks from doctors and nurses in public hospitals. He admits the legislation could be improved, but there was no doubt public health powers would be needed next year if there was another wave of high infection numbers from the virus.

Despite the political turmoil and partisanship that has been generated by the COVID-19 pandemic more recently, he said the overall response by all levels of government, whatever their stripes, over 18 months also gave some cause for optimism.

“It’s really impressive our governments have adapted so quickly to COVID and it just shows what we can do if we want to tackle major problems.”

Taking nothing for granted

When Victorians go to the polls on November 26 next year, Dr Read will be seeking a second term after his historic victory in 2018 which ended 114 years of the seat of Brunswick being in Labor hands.

The 2018 election was Dr Read’s second tilt at Brunswick (he also ran unsuccessfully for the federal seat of Wills). He narrowly won with a margin of just 0.57%.

“The Greens vote in Brunswick had been going up for probably 15 years before we were ultimately successful so it was always going to happen,” he said. “It was just a case of which election and I think [incumbent MP] Jane [Garrett] shifting to a different seat was the final bit of help we needed.”

He is now one of three lower house Greens MPs, but at the same election, the party went from five upper house members to one due to preference flows working against it. Statewide, the party’s vote is consistently between 9% and 11%.

A recent redrawing of election boundaries has handed Dr Read an increased nominal margin of 2.3%, but he is taking nothing for granted.

“I don’t think we will ever have as many rusted on voters as other parties, so we’re unlikely to have many safe seats,” he said. “We have got to win each seat every time.”

CRITICISM comes with the territory when you seek public office, but Brunswick MP Tim Read says he has never seen anything like the violent threats made last week against politicians who support the Andrews Government’s controversial pandemic legislation.

Like many other MPs, Dr Read’s inbox was full of hate mail at the end of last week, one of the most dramatic in recent Victorian political history – although he hastens to add the comments he was sent were nothing like the torrent of abuse directed at his female colleagues.

But Dr Read says he has no regrets about speaking out in support of the legislation, which would allow the Health Minister to take actions restricting freedoms after the declaration of a pandemic emergency.

As the only medical doctor in State Parliament, the measured and quietly spoken Dr Read took it upon himself to advocate on public health grounds in favour of the Bill, which has now stalled due to the government’s failure to secure enough votes to ensure its passage through the upper house.

The reaction to the Bill from a small minority – which has included death threats towards the Premier and cross-bench MPs, including his Greens colleague Samantha Ratnam – has led Dr Read to voice concerns about the polarisation of politics and the direction it is heading.

In a wide-ranging interview to mark 12 months until the next state election, Dr Read was scathing of multi-millionaire Clive Palmer and his United Australia Party who he said were deliberately exploiting people’s fears and weariness about lockdowns to turn them against science and public health.

It was concerning that the state Opposition and some cross-benchers had been “swept along” and were so out of step with the vast majority of Victorians who supported the main measures taken by the government to control the spread of the virus over the past two years, Dr Read said.

“My inbox is pretty full, but I’ve been spared the violent threats. My female colleagues get much worse stuff. There’s a frighteningly gendered aspect to this abuse. That’s really upsetting.

“This has been the worst week of my three years in Parliament but it does show the importance of standing up for what you believe in. I’m still confident we’ll find a way through somehow.”

He added the violent tactics employed by opponents of the pandemic Bill “doesn’t bode well for other things we have to do collectively as a society to confront other challenges whether it’s climate change or anything else”.

On the other hand, Dr Read said he had also been sent messages of thanks from doctors and nurses in public hospitals. He admits the legislation could be improved, but there was no doubt public health powers would be needed next year if there was another wave of high infection numbers from the virus.

Despite the political turmoil and partisanship that has been generated by the COVID-19 pandemic more recently, he said the overall response by all levels of government, whatever their stripes, over 18 months also gave some cause for optimism.

“It’s really impressive our governments have adapted so quickly to COVID and it just shows what we can do if we want to tackle major problems.”

Taking nothing for granted

When Victorians go to the polls on November 26 next year, Dr Read will be seeking a second term after his historic victory in 2018 which ended 114 years of the seat of Brunswick being in Labor hands.

The 2018 election was Dr Read’s second tilt at Brunswick (he also ran unsuccessfully for the federal seat of Wills). He narrowly won with a margin of just 0.57%.

“The Greens vote in Brunswick had been going up for probably 15 years before we were ultimately successful so it was always going to happen,” he said. “It was just a case of which election and I think [incumbent MP] Jane [Garrett] shifting to a different seat was the final bit of help we needed.”

He is now one of three lower house Greens MPs, but at the same election, the party went from five upper house members to one due to preference flows working against it. Statewide, the party’s vote is consistently between 9% and 11%.

A recent redrawing of election boundaries has handed Dr Read an increased nominal margin of 2.3%, but he is taking nothing for granted.

“I don’t think we will ever have as many rusted on voters as other parties, so we’re unlikely to have many safe seats,” he said. “We have got to win each seat every time.”

“I see my most important role in Parliament is to keep pushing the government and to provide political pain on these kinds of issues to get outcomes.”

Dr Read concedes the past three years have been frustrating as many of the things he hoped to do in Parliament were interrupted or derailed by the pandemic.

He says the Greens often fail to get their due credit for policies that are adopted by whichever party is in government, but he is proud of some modest wins such as a container deposit scheme, removing exemptions under the Equal Opportunity Act that would have allowed religious schools to fire gay or lesbian teachers, or recent work to modify parts of the pandemic legislation.

“I see my most important role in Parliament is to keep pushing the government and to provide political pain on these kinds of issues to get outcomes.

“While we don’t always see the outcomes as quickly as we want to, they suddenly pop up often when you least expect them.”

Twelve months out from the next election, Dr Read believes the battle for Brunswick will be determined by which party voters believe has the best policies on statewide issues such as the environment.

“I don’t think people vote Green much for local issues. I’m very interested in local issues but I feel as though the big driver for Greens supporters will be wanting to see climate action and that will be one, two and three on their list.”

One local issue that Dr Read will have no hesitation about campaigning on again next year is the removal of on-street parking to create a separated bike path in Sydney Road.

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Dr Read believes it is inevitable that bicycle safety will be improved in Brunswick’s main arterial road once tram super stops are built and one day people will wonder what the fuss was about.

He said there was an abundance of off-street parking directly behind many shops in Sydney Road, and the space used by cars would be better allocated to walking, riding and outdoor dining.

“The government’s stubbornness, silence and stalling on the issue would have been one of the most frustrating things [in his three years in Parliament] but I know that in 20 years’ time, Sydney Road will be a lot different and I just want to see it happen sooner than that.”

Labor yet to announce candidate

Dr Read was briefly a member of the Labor Party in the 1990s in what he describes as “a burst of youthful enthusiasm”.

But when he became interested in politics again a decade or so later, it was the Greens that most appealed to him because of their unambiguous stance on global warming and climate change.

From there, it was a short step to seeking public office.

The Labor Party is yet to pre-select a candidate for next year’s election.

“I’m sure it will be a good one, whoever it is,” Dr Read said. “You generally end up getting on quite well with each other. You go to the same events and have good conversations and whoever it is, I look forward to meeting them.”

Sign up for our mailing list

Get our latest articles and current events around Brunswick straight to your inbox.

Dr Read concedes the past three years have been frustrating as many of the things he hoped to do in Parliament were interrupted or derailed by the pandemic.

He says the Greens often fail to get their due credit for policies that are adopted by whichever party is in government, but he is proud of some modest wins such as a container deposit scheme, removing exemptions under the Equal Opportunity Act that would have allowed religious schools to fire gay or lesbian teachers, or recent work to modify parts of the pandemic legislation.

“I see my most important role in Parliament is to keep pushing the government and to provide political pain on these kinds of issues to get outcomes.

“While we don’t always see the outcomes as quickly as we want to, they suddenly pop up often when you least expect them.”

Twelve months out from the next election, Dr Read believes the battle for Brunswick will be determined by which party voters believe has the best policies on statewide issues such as the environment.

“I don’t think people vote Green much for local issues. I’m very interested in local issues but I feel as though the big driver for Greens supporters will be wanting to see climate action and that will be one, two and three on their list.”

One local issue that Dr Read will have no hesitation about campaigning on again next year is the removal of on-street parking to create a separated bike path in Sydney Road.

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Dr Read believes it is inevitable that bicycle safety will be improved in Brunswick’s main arterial road once tram super stops are built and one day people will wonder what the fuss was about.

He said there was an abundance of off-street parking directly behind many shops in Sydney Road, and the space used by cars would be better allocated to walking, riding and outdoor dining.

“The government’s stubbornness, silence and stalling on the issue would have been one of the most frustrating things [in his three years in Parliament] but I know that in 20 years’ time, Sydney Road will be a lot different and I just want to see it happen sooner than that.”

Labor yet to announce candidate

Dr Read was briefly a member of the Labor Party in the 1990s in what he describes as “a burst of youthful enthusiasm”.

But when he became interested in politics again a decade or so later, it was the Greens that most appealed to him because of their unambiguous stance on global warming and climate change.

From there, it was a short step to seeking public office.

The Labor Party is yet to pre-select a candidate for next year’s election.

“I’m sure it will be a good one, whoever it is,” Dr Read said. “You generally end up getting on quite well with each other. You go to the same events and have good conversations and whoever it is, I look forward to meeting them.”

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Get our latest articles and current events around Brunswick straight to your inbox.