Anti-vaxxer ‘coalition’ targeting elections
A former government official who resigned last year in protest at the coronavirus lockdown is plotting a political "third front" to take the fight to Liberal and Labor at upcoming elections.
Sanjeev Sabhlok quit his role as an economist in the Victorian Treasury Department in September, accusing Daniel Andrews' government of implementing a "police state" in a disproportionate response to COVID-19, which he argues is "at least 80 times less (deadly) than the Spanish flu".
Now Mr Sabhlok, a former high-ranking civil servant in India who moved to Melbourne in 2001, wants to use his experience as a political organiser in his home country to cobble together a makeshift coalition of fringe parties and disaffected voters from both sides of the aisle.
"I'm capable of doing a hell of a lot of damage politically to these characters," he told news.com.au. "I was the happiest person living in Australia, but they betrayed all of us."
He says the final straw was Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton's mandatory mask order. "That is such a criminal order, it breaches all sense of proportionality and has nothing to do with the virus," he said.
"It is stepping into my existence, imposing their will on my soul."
While he became an Australian citizen in 2005, his political activism in the past has been focused on India.
"Now I've decided my own liberty is at stake," he said. "These guys have aggravated me and therefore they're facing my wrath. I will organise."
Mr Sabhlok says he would like the support of now-independent MP Craig Kelly, who split from the Liberal Party after being reprimanded for spreading coronavirus misinformation on social media, and is in "very close touch" with celebrity chef and conspiracy theorist Pete Evans, who recently announced he would run for Senate under former One Nation Senator Rod Culleton's Great Australia Party.
"I'd like to have Craig Kelly," he said.
"Pete Evans is definitely supportive but he's joined another party. I've had chats with Rod Culleton. The question is are they willing to collaborate? Every party has its axe to grind - I don't have an axe to grind, I just want my freedom."
Mr Kelly told news.com.au in an email he was "yet to speak with Sanjeev, however his action of resigning his position from the Victorian government in protest shows that he is a man of the highest integrity".
According to Mr Sabhlok, he already has two unnamed parties signed up and is speaking with another four.
He concedes his chances are "almost like for me trying to go to the moon on my own". "Yes, it is a moonshot, but I believe politically there is space being created right in the centre of the political sphere," Mr Sabhlok said.
"There are a lot of Labor people who are disenchanted, and a lot of Liberal voters saying the party has failed to defend basic liberty."
He highlighted anti-vaccination protests held around the country on February 20 that attracted thousands of attendees, saying it showed there were large numbers of "very emotionally excited people" and that those willing to turn up in person were "only the tip of the iceberg".
"Multiply that by at least 10 times," he said.
"Politics is very difficult to predict. In India there have been movements that started and in six months took over (a state government)."
Mr Sabhlok says while his coalition would embrace "genuine anti-vaxxers, that's fine", he stresses he's "not anti-vax".
"I'm 100 per cent pro-vax - I've written articles about it," he said.
But he believes de facto mandatory vaccination via "vaccine passports" and other restrictions on non-vaccinated people may be a bridge too far for many Australians.
"I'm saying it's a personal choice," he said.
The scenes of booing at the Australian Open last month when Tennis Australia chair Jayne Hrdlicka mentioned the vaccine rollout "tells you the average punter is not convinced this vaccine is either essential or (should be) mandated in any shape".
"There's a hell of a lot of opposition," he said.
"Now they're saying even if you have the vaccine we may not let you get back to normal. People are getting really sick of this."
He also says he does not endorse "all these crazy hypotheses" such as the "Great Reset, Bill Gates". But he says "on the other hand" there is ample evidence that China "planted this hysteria" that caused governments to implement lockdown policies.
Mr Sabhlok was one of 10 signatories to an open letter in January addressed to the FBI and Western intelligence agencies requesting an investigation into the Chinese Communist Party's "global lockdown fraud".
"We had our own plans to flatten the curve but copied Xi Jinping and went for eradication," he said.
He believes there are "a number of factors coming together" that could drive the political movement, including a large number of young people who have been "particularly harmed" by the COVID-19 response.
"I managed to get to speak (to some recently), and I said, 'You young people are basically barking up the wrong tree. Protests don't shift opinion polls, you ultimately have to organise politically,'" he said.
"Obviously the problem with political organising is everyone has their own personal belief that it's Labor's fault or Liberals' fault. We need to (accept) it's the fault of both parties. That's a big leap."
Mr Sabhlok says at first he "thought it was all Dan Andrews' fault" but "that turned out to be wrong", and that "very clearly" there was support from Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the Victorian Premier's policies.
"It was clear Liberal MPs were under strict instruction from Scott Morrison not to attack Dan Andrews," he said.
The problem, he argues, is both parties and governments at all levels are now wedded to their initial response. "They took a decision without considering any of its implications," he said.
"This is the tragedy of all governments - I've been in government 38 years - once a government decides on a particular approach, it locks itself in. It sets in place so many things, (such as) JobKeeper, it becomes virtually impossible to get out of it."
A draft document for his "third front" proposal outlines Mr Sabhlok's arguments against the current coronavirus measures, lists alleged "illegal" acts by state and federal politicians, and lays out how people can get involved by standing for office or distributing leaflets.
"Australia has become a huge prison since March 2020," the document states.
"Our politicians have locked our borders and implemented illegal quarantines (never acceptable for such a virus), imposed lockdowns and mandatory masks (never even dreamt of before in human history) and are now talking about mandatory vaccines (vaccine passports) and about making QR codes permanent."
It continues, "When did we ever give our politicians such powers? Our politicians have broken Australia's Constitution and laws. They have crushed people's liberty on false pretexts.
"This is not the Spanish flu or ebola - and even if it was these measures would not have been justified. We are now a full-fledged police state, a surveillance state. This is public health terrorism."
Mr Sabhlok says his "coalition of all the discontents" could be "anywhere from 2 per cent to 20 per cent of the population at the moment".
"If we can have an impact on the Lower House seats as well as the Upper House in the forthcoming federal election, I believe the messaging will be clear - the politicians are our servants, and they have overstepped the mark," he said.
Originally published as Anti-vaxxer 'coalition' targeting elections