Christopher Knaus and Josh Taylor, in an essay in 2019 which gains relevance in the light of the recent events in Capital Hill in Washington …. This essay was entitled “Revealed: the QAnon conspiracy theorist who is friends with Australian PM Scott Morrison”
A significant Australian proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory is a family friend of Scott Morrison, and his wife is on the prime minister’s staff. The sprawling, disjointed and incoherent QAnon conspiracy variously claims that Donald Trump is leading a behind-the-scenes fight against a shadowy deep state, that powerful forces are hiding and protecting satanic paedophile rings, and that a secretive individual named Q leaves clues for his followers to decipher on internet forums.
The FBI has previously warned that QAnon could act as a potential motivator for “domestic extremists” and last year Reddit banned one of its main QAnon threads for repeated violations of its content policy, warning it would not tolerate content “that incites violence, disseminates personal information, or harasses” users.
In Australia, one of the more significant QAnon figures tweets under the handle @BurnedSpy34 and has amassed 21,000 Twitter followers in just over a year. BurnedSpy tweets daily QAnon material, including bizarre theories about Alexander Downer and Julie Bishop.
The Guardian has learned the identity of BurnedSpy and established he is a longstanding family friend of the Australian prime minister and his wife, Jenny.
The wife of BurnedSpy works on the prime minister’s staff.
There is no suggestion that the families’ close relationship has influenced Morrison, or that BurnedSpy poses a danger. BurnedSpy told the Guardian he had never sought to speak to the prime minister about QAnon.
“I have never spoken to Scott about anything of a political nature. I’m not an adviser. The idea of me talking to him about this … it’s just not true,” he said.
But some who know BurnedSpy have become concerned about the extent of his immersion in the QAnon theory, saying it may leave him open to influence by others.
The family friendship is largely driven by the closeness between BurnedSpy’s wife and Jenny Morrison.
The pair have been lifelong friends, and the Guardian has learned the wife was recently employed on the prime minister’s staff in a publicly funded position, but not in any policy or advisory capacity. There is no evidence she shares her husband’s views.
BurnedSpy’s tweets have frequently been cited as “world-class” in QAnon research threads on 8Chan, the forum Australian telecommunications companies were encouraged to block by Morrison’s government after it hosted the Christchurch terrorist attack videos.
“It’s no coincidence that Downer did NOT want Trump elected,” he tweeted.
He greeted this week’s news that Australia had offered assistance to the investigation into the Mueller probe, including Downer’s involvement, by tweeting “Game on!”.
BurnedSpy explained the tweet to the Guardian by saying: “So as for ‘game on’, for two years I’ve been interested in the Australian high commissioner to the UK’s involvement in what I consider as a coup against an incumbent sitting US president, I think that’s a story.”
There is no substance to his claims that Downer’s role in the Russia investigation had anything to do with child abuse, and no evidence that Downer did not want Trump elected.
BurnedSpy has also questioned whether the former Australian foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop was connected to the conspiracy through her wearing of red shoes.
“If you want to do your research into the US context, the red shoes are purported to be very much a paedophilia shout out,” he told the Guardian. “And there are some extremely odd photos of large groups of men in suits wearing red shoes, many of whom are promoting paedophilia.”
There is no evidence that Bishop is connected to any such conspiracy.
In other posts, he questioned whether 8Chan was taken offline after the Christchurch attacks because it was the only uncensored platform that Q could use.
The connections between his family and the Morrisons are long standing.
His wife has known Scott and Jenny since they were children, and is a close friend. The Guardian has seen multiple photos of the trio together. She attended their wedding and frequently interacts with Jenny Morrison on Facebook.
Photos also show BurnedSpy and Scott Morrison together.
One source close to BurnedSpy’s family, who asked not to be identified, expressed concerns about his immersion in QAnon material and warned he might be open to manipulation or influence.
“[His] beliefs have become more unusual and I have concerns about how easily [he] is influenced or infiltrated himself.”
The source said he was frequently heard making references to “great awakening” or “dark to light” – common refrains of QAnon – during conversation.
When contacted for comment, BurnedSpy accused the Guardian of preparing a “hit piece” on him.
He said his friendship with the Morrisons was unrelated to the Twitter account.
“I’m not going to diminish the relationship, that’s not appropriate either. Yeah we’re friends. That’s good. People have friends.”
BurnedSpy and his son, also a QAnon follower, have met prominent US-based QAnon figures.
The deceased US actor Isaac Kappy, a former QAnon proponent who frequently made unsubstantiated accusations of paedophilia against other Hollywood actors, met the pair when he came to Australia late last year.
TMZ last year reported that Kappy was the focus of a police investigation after threatening two celebrities and accusing one of paedophilia.
Also pictured at the meeting was Eliahi Priest, who has previously spoken at a rally for the True Blue Crew, a far-right Australian group.
BurnedSpy told the Guardian that Priest turned up at the meeting without his knowledge.
Priest was visited by the Australian federal police earlier this year after sending concerning emails to government officials. The officers asked Priest if he needed mental health support or counselling.
He claimed to have passed on information to Morrison, via the individual controlling the BurnedSpy account.
“I was hanging out with the prime minister’s best friend at his house in Sydney,” Priest said. “[He] was to pass this information to the prime minister, and he did.”
There is no evidence to substantiate Priest’s claims.
BurnedSpy told the Guardian he had met Priest only once – not intentionally – and had no ongoing association with him. The pair have now fallen out.
“He makes out that I’m part of [Morrison’s] political team,” he said. “Knowing someone is a far cry from … you know lots of people, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re invited to conversations and you’re allowed to offer an opinion without permission.”
BurnedSpy has also linked Hillsong, where Morrison has prayed, to mind control, and praised Morrison for his apology to child abuse survivors, during which the prime minister used the term “ritual sexual abuse”. The use of that term was interpreted by QAnon followers as referring to satanic ritual abuse.
He described the movement as “peaceful” and an alternative source of information, research and news for those who have lost faith in mainstream media. He said he had never been on the 8Chan forum and did not post there.
Experts say conspiracy theories such as QAnon risk leaving their followers polarised and shut off from the outside world, making them unpredictable.
Followers of the online “Pizzagate” conspiracy attacked Washington’s Comet Ping Pong restaurant in December 2016, believing internet rumours that prominent Democrats were harbouring child sex slaves there.
An armed QAnon follower blocked traffic at Hoover Dam in Nevada with an armoured truck in June 2018, calling for the release of the “OIG Report”, an unredacted Justice Department inspector general report which QAnon believes will expose a shadowy network entrenched in the government.
Australian National University associate professor Colin Klein, who has studied the varying belief systems behind conspiracy theories, said there was a risk when individuals began to believe ordinary sources of information were “unreliable and part of the conspiracy”.
“All-encompassing conspiracy theories insulate themselves from the world, which makes it much easier to become polarised and violent,” Klein said.
A COMMENT from Fair Dinkum, January 2021: “This article reveals Morrison’s links with the QAnon right wing insurrectionists in America and the dangers for Australia if Morrison doesn’t do the right thing and condemn trump and return his medal. These right wing nutters are the people who advise Morrison and Payne and others within the present government.”