the anti-vaxxer couple behind internet pandemic legal opposition

The couple behind a popular anonymous internet campaign against Victoria’s proposed pandemic law are the bankrupt former president of the Family First party and his anti-vaccine property mogul partner, who both spent the year touring Australia doing paid workshops on how to end vaccine warrants.

The couple, Ruby Janssen and Peter Harris, are also behind a network of other anonymous internet campaigns – including a call for a vote of no confidence in Dan Andrews and for the TGA to allow the use of proven COVID-19 medication – which have been promoted by Australian politicians and conspiracy influencers alike.

Janssen – whose real name is Rebecca Jane Janssen – and Harris have successfully used digital tools to create a clear political movement and mobilize opposition. Their campaign also shows how pandemic laws, such as those the Andrews government is trying to push through the state’s upper house, have become a Trojan horse for those with more extreme views.

StopTheBill.com.au is a smoothly designed website that claims to have been used by nearly 10,000 people to email their local Victorian MP for not passing on what is considered the “dangerous and undemocratic” Public Health and Welfare (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021.

Screenshot from StopTheBill.com.au. (Image: Provided)

At the Melbourne protests over the weekend, organizer Joshua Rusic told the crowd to go to the site. It has been widely disseminated through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Telegram, as well as by public figures including independent state MP Catherine Cumming and the anti-vaxxer Health Australia Party.

Network of partisan and anti-COVID restrictions websites

The site’s registration records list “REBECCA JANE, JANSSEN” as the recorder. The Australian government’s business register has a number of businesses listed under Janssen’s name, including:

  • “WE ARE THE VOICE” is a sister website of StopTheBill, which is calling on Australia’s medical goods regulator to approve ivermectin. Associated Telegram channel has more than 800 followers. It was promoted by Queensland LNP politicians George Christensen and Matt Canavan
  • “My Say Matters” is an online platform used to campaign against Victoria’s omnibus bill on COVID-19 approved in 2020.
  • “Vaccine Choice Australia” is an online anti-vaccine group that presents itself as a “team of passionate people”. The group has more than 13,000 followers on Telegram and 5800 on Instagram spreading misinformation about vaccines.

Public website archives list Janssen as the recorder for the first two websites. www.vaccinechoiceaustralia.com.au is registered at “Ruby Janssen”.

Another Vote No Confidence website, which requires Victorian lawmakers to roll Daniel Andrews, also shares email and privacy information with My Say Matters. It was promoted by Reignite Democracy Australia, an anti-vaccine group that teamed up with Clive Palmer and Craig Kelly’s United Australia Party.

Who is behind these anti-locked, anti-vaccine groups?

Vaccine Choice Australia’s Lnk.Bio page – a platform that allows users to create a personal, public directory of hyperlinks commonly used to advertise various social media accounts – also links to Stand Up Australia, a website for a tour teaching vaccines and sovereigns. civic concepts and arguments. It is also recorded at Ruby Janssen.

Screenshot of Vaccine Choice Australia’s Instagram account. (Image: Provided)

Janssen has been in the real estate industry for two decades. In 2011, Janssen, then 31, boasted in the Herald Sun. that she owned eight properties when she was 26. She is now listed on the websites as the founder of Every Body Buildings and Access Living Australia, two companies that offer people ways to invest in residential property for people with disabilities supported by the National Handicap. Insurance Scheme.

A brochure for Access Living Australia promises that the company will be responsible for “providing, contracting and managing property” tenants for customers, suggesting that employees are in contact with people with disabilities.

She has two children with her husband Peter Harris, who is a co-worker to Ruby on both disability housing investment firms. Harris is the former party leader of Family First who bankrupted the party before he declared bankruptcy in 2011 after his property building company Hardel collapsed in 2009. He was also a participant in the Assemblies of God church in Adelaide, an evangelical Pentecostal church previously headed up. nation of Brian Houston.

Peter Harris, Ruby Janssen and children at a Sydney anti-vaccine rally. (Image: Provided)

Janssen and Harris began campaigning for vaccines during the pandemic. Vaccine Choice Australia and My Say Matters were recorded in September 2020, and We Are The Voice in November 2021.

Neither Janssen nor Harris responded to requests for comment by phone or email.

In June 2021, Harris said he and Ruby were active after comments made by the prime minister in August 2020 about making the vaccine as “mandatory” as possible.

“What triggered us was Scott Morrison’s intrusive policy,” he said in an interview with Jamie McIntyre of an Australian National Review overseer of misinformation.

Social media accounts for Vaccine Choice Australia began spreading medical misinformation around the same time, including downplaying the severity of COVID-19, linking autism to vaccines and unfoundedly linking deaths to vaccines.

They also advertised online events with well-known anti-vaccine figures such as Dr Judy Whylman, Taylor Winterstein and Serene Taffaha.

Janssen intensified it in March this year, launching the “Stand Up Australia Tour”. According to Eventbrite, the group ran 74 events across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia in eight months. Costing between $ 16 and $ 22 per ticket to attend, the workshop promises to teach people in three hours about the impact of vaccines and how they can “bring about change collectively”.

Brochure for the Stand Up Tour in Australia. (Image: Provided)

Footage of the events shared on the group’s Instagram page shows events with dozens of people in attendance, often with Harris or Janssen speaking.

What is their purpose?

At a Million March Against Mandatory Vaccinations protest in Adelaide, Janssen laid out his plans in a speech recorded and uploaded to the Vaccine Choice BitChute page.

“This is a political strategy and a political campaign, and we will communicate our process with our community as we approach election time,” she said.

A screenshot of an Instagram story taken during the Stand Up Australia seminar. (Image: Provided)

All of the organizations focus on influencing politicians and their local communities. Stop The Bill, WE ARE THE VOICE and My Say Matters all make it easy to send emails to a user’s MP – and, in the process, harvest their own email for future plans. If the website’s public counters are correct, they have collected up to 60,000 email addresses of politically engaged individuals.

Another part of it is direct election success. Harris founded a new party called Australia’s Representatives in April, around the time the pair began touring Australia. Other key figures in the party are Sanjeev Sabhlok, a Victorian official who resigned in opposition to the keys to the state, and Dr Robert Brennan. The party was later included in the Australian Federal Party, an umbrella party that brings together marginal independent and minor parties to meet minimum membership requirements for registration.

Janssen and Harris have links to other similar groups. The couple appeared alongside Morgan C Jonas, an anti-vaccine activist who is involved with Monica Smit of Reignite Democracy Australia, and arranged interviews with Meryl Dorey, head of Australia’s longest running anti-vaccine organization.

Videos produced for the WE ARE THE VOICE campaign feature an unnamed young woman advertising ivermectin, a proven COVID-19 treatment. An interview with another Victorian anti-vaccine activist lists her name as Rachel Rusic. She is a sibling of protest organizer Joshua Rusic who promoted Stop The Bill at the rally. She is also listed as an employee of the Samuel Griffith Society, a think tank aligned with Liberals.

Rachel Rusic appears in a video for ivermectin advertising online group WE ARE THE VOICE. (Image: Provided)

In addition to their paid events, the couple is looking for gifts through all of their businesses. They also sell goods for Vaccine Choice Australia and Stand Up Australia, and access to pre-registered seminars.

What sets Janssen and Harris apart from some other anti-vaccine and anti-lockout groups is their organization: building big email lists, growing social media following and touring the country – all while making money along the way. Despite their concerns, their theory and method of political change are conventional. And, as Janssen points out during one of her recorded speeches at a protest, they are hunting for real influence.

“I’m not here to talk about problems, I’m here to talk about solutions,” she said.

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