While they may be our closest and strongest ally, Australia’s senior government ministers have stopped short of a full-throated defence of President of the United States’ right to have a Twitter account.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump went ‘ballistic‘ when he found that his account — along with many of the current US administration’s accounts — was permanently suspended from his favourite social media platform, Twitter, out of fears of “the risk of further incitement of violence”.
Australia’s leaders responded in a supportive but muted way to Trump’s outrage.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack told reporters he thought the social media company had overstepped the mark by banning the outgoing President.
“I don’t believe in that sort of censorship. But, you know, I mean, there’s been a lot of people who’ve said and done a lot of things on Twitter previously that haven’t received that sort of condemnation or, indeed, censorship,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
“That’s a matter for Twitter. They’ve made that call. They’ve got a company, they’ve got a business to run and they’ve made that decision.”
Similarly, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg signalled his displeasure with the decision.
“Freedom of speech is fundamental to our society. As Voltaire said, I might not agree with what you say, but I defend your right to say it,” he said on Monday.
“Those decisions were taken by commercial companies, but personally I felt uncomfortable with what they did.”
Both ministers couldn’t be drawn on social media conduct by party room members, George Christensen and Craig Kelly.
The Queensland and New South Wales MPs have drawn criticism from sharing debunked conspiracy theories about the invasion of the US Capitol Building by Trump supporters.
Labor’s Jim Chalmers castigated the Prime Minister for failing to act on the pair’s pattern of using social media to spread misinformation.
“These are dangerous characters, expressing dangerous views and the Prime Minister needs to shut them up,” he said.
But Frydenberg said Christensen will be held accountable for the promotion of fringe conspiracy theories by the voters in his electorate.
“He can explain his actions when it comes to the ability of an MP to tweet and to speak. They are democratically elected into the parliament,” he said.
When asked, McCormack declined to address the issue all together.
“Why shouldn’t he be counselled for pushing false claims and bad medical advice to thousands of followers?” one reporter asked.
“Well, George Christensen also supports the Mackay Ringroad,” McCormack replied.
Meanwhile Christensen responded to criticism and Trump’s banning with his own proposal: legislating away tech platform’s abilities to factcheck and delete ‘lawful’ posts.
“Given the power that Big Tech has in providing a platform for public discourse, we consider that failing to act on their censorship would be a DANGER TO DEMOCRACY!” his website reads.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider Australia.