It has been two years since the public first learned of the prime minister, Scott Morrison’s, connection to a outstanding Australian proponent of the fringe QAnon conspiracy theory.
Last week, the story made an surprising comeback, courtesy of the ABC’s crack investigative team at Four Corners and a controversial resolution to delay a program about it.
So far, it’s unclear what extra Four Corners has uncovered since Guardian Australia first broke the story in 2019.
A lot of detail is already in the public domain, thanks largely to the initial stories by Guardian Australia and later reporting by Crikey.
What impact we know so far?
Let’s start with the basics. What on earth is this story all about?
The story, at its core, is straightforward.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has a family friend named Tim Stewart, who also happens to a outstanding resolve in the Australian QAnon scene.
For the uninitiated, QAnon is a bizarre and convoluted conspiracy theory that posits that Donald Trump is waging war against a secret deep state, which is intent on masking up satanic paedophile rings.
The theory’s protagonist, an anonymous information superhighway discussion board person named “Q”, leaves clues on information superhighway message boards treasure 8Chan for his followers to decipher.
It may well be easy to push aside QAnon as harmless idiocy. But that may well be a dangerous misstep.
The FBI has beforehand warned that QAnon may act as a potential motivator for “home extremists”.
Specialists say it can threat leaving followers polarised and shut off from the out of doors world, making them unpredictable and struggling to separate reality from fiction.
QAnon proponents were a visible presence all by means of the storming of Capitol Hill in January.
A variety of proponents, Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, is currently sooner than courtroom, where his lawyer has likened his immersion in QAnon to brainwashing or changing into trapped in a cult. His lawyer argued repeated publicity to falsehood and incendiary rhetoric had made it hard for his client to discern reality.
Who’s Tim Stewart?
Ahead of Twitter deleted the account last year, Stewart tweeted beneath the handle of @BurnedSpy34, amassing 21,000 Twitter followers in his first active year.
He was regularly praised by QAnon followers and achieved some fame among local adherents.
BurnedSpy34’s tweets contained bizarre and tense direct material, occasionally targeted at Morrison’s colleagues or faded colleagues.
At one level, BurnedSpy attempted to connect Julie Bishop to the conspiracy due to her wearing of red footwear, which he believed were a “roar out” to paedophiles.
Pointless to say, such theories are baseless and inferior.
Guardian Australia revealed last year that Twitter had deleted the @BurnedSpy34 account for “engaging in coordinated harmful activity”. It had also taken action against other linked accounts.
What is Stewart’s connection to Scott Morrison?
The connection between Stewart and Morrison is pushed by the shut friendship between Stewart’s companion and the prime minister’s companion, Jenny Morrison.
Stewart’s companion works at Kirribilli Home, but Guardian Australia understands here is no longer in any policy or advisory capacity. There is no longer any proof she shares her husband’s views.
Morrison and Stewart have been pictured together, beers in hand.
In 2019, Stewart confirmed the nature of his friendship instantly to Guardian Australia.
“I’m no longer going to diminish the relationship, that’s no longer appropriate either. Yeah we’re chums. That’s factual. Of us have chums.”
What proof is there that Stewart has influenced, or attempted to influence, the prime minister?
Last week, Morrison reacted angrily to any advice that QAnon had influenced him in any way.
“I salvage it deeply offensive there may well be any advice I would have any involvement or strengthen for such a dangerous organisation. I clearly impact no longer,” he said.
There are claims online about the ways that Stewart may have influenced Morrison, but Guardian Australia has been unable to independently examine or corroborate these accounts.
For his part, Stewart denied ever having had influence on Morrison. Last year, he said he had no longer attempted to influence Morrison or had conversations with him about any QAnon direct material.
“I have by no means spoken to Scott about anything of a political nature,” Stewart said. “I’m no longer an adviser. The idea of me talking to him about this…it’s factual no longer correct.”
Why is this story important?
The public passion demanded this story be told for a want of reasons.
Labor’s Penny Wong articulated the chief reason all by means of Senate estimates in October.
She said she was pursuing questions about the matter to be certain there was no “vector of influence” with Morrison given the “dangerous” parts of QAnon and the concerns of the FBI.
“We impact have on the public account now reports that the prime minister has an association or a friendship with someone who’s associated with a dangerous fringe conspiracy movement,” she said. “I’d suggest there is a public passion in responding to that.”
There is public passion in understanding the nature and closeness of the association between Stewart and Morrison and understanding the task that underpinned Stewart’s companion’s employment at Kirribilli Home.
The prime minister’s department assured it took “all factual measures to make clear that that person was suitable for that employment together with, the relevant police exams”.
What impact we know about the Four Corners program?
So what is there left to present?
Award-profitable journalist Margaret Simons reported on Sunday that she understood the episode to be “spicy, rather than revelatory”.
But there are unresolved questions on this story that Four Corners, with all of its sources, is well placed to shed original light on.
That is, of route, if its story gets to air.