By now it's a cliche to say we are in unprecedented times. But as Canberra has started to open up socially and economically and a bit of normality returns, it's easy to forget what it took to get us to this point where new COVID-19 cases nationwide are in the single figures.
I have been contacted by numerous Canberrans who have told me how tough it's been to not visit elderly parents and grandparents, senior Canberrans who had to celebrate significant birthdays alone, and workers and business owners who have lost nearly everything.
Most difficult of all are those across Australia who weren't able to properly farewell loved ones who passed away in the last couple of months.
What's most striking about so many of those who have shared these stories is how so many of them have made these sacrifices willingly.
They, like millions of Australians, have understood the seriousness of the pandemic and respected the expert advice to do what it takes to flatten the curve and stop the spread.
But now, as we are moving through the stages to carefully and safely open back up, all our hard work is threatened by the protests that are being planned and undertaken across the country.
I am on the record in my support of free speech and, as part of that, the right to protest. It's fundamental to who we are as Australians.
I also understand the deep and serious disadvantages Indigenous Australians face. I have visited remote communities in the Northern Territory and spoken with those who live with this disadvantage every day.
But the worthiness or otherwise of the cause does not change the expert medical advice.
The right to protest is important, but so is the right to worship, to work and operate a small business, to see your family and be with them in times of grief.
Worse is the message that going ahead with these protests sends to those Canberrans who have made huge sacrifices.
It says to them that the price they paid doesn't matter.
It says that this march - something that can be done in due course as restrictions are lifted further - is more important than the one chance to say goodbye to a loved one, or the collapse of a business that was someone's life's work, or the pain of losing a job and an uncertain future.
I was appalled when it was reported that the NSW Premier was going to allow the protests in Sydney, and I am grateful that her stance has since changed.
But here in Canberra there's been silence from Andrew Barr as people have gathered in close proximity in numbers far greater than the current restrictions allow.
Protest organisers have indicated they are encouraging attendees to wear masks, use hand sanitiser and observe social distancing. But that is not in the medical advice or in the rules set by the ACT government.
And that is not a concession that was given to families trying to organise funerals or weddings or small businesses who wanted to open in the last two months.
We have come so far and there are many in our community whose lives will never be the same after this pandemic. We owe it to them to be fair and consistent in how the current restrictions are enforced so that we all continue to share the responsibility of fighting this pandemic.
- Zed Seselja is a Liberal senator for the ACT.