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Tuesday, 30 April 2019 20:20

Is free speech dead?

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“It's not enough that so many babies have been killed, but now free speech has been killed as well," Kathy Clubb pro-life activist fined $5000 for offering a leaflet

"This is a great result that enshrines respect for women's choices." Dr Susie Allanson, clinical psychologist at the Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic for 26 years.

Yes, free speech is dead in this country, killed by its very guardians, the High Court of Australia, and “liberal” civil libertarians.

Forty one years ago on February 4th 1978, I was arrested under the Joh Bjelke Peterson regime for being a political enemy and taking part in a street march. Four months ago in the same state of Queensland I was arrested, along with my wife Anne, by (as I termed it in court) the “Joh Bjelke”/ Palaszczuk regime, for being a political enemy and holding signs which read “Support Mothers, Not Abortion” and “Human Rights for all Human Beings”.

In between I was arrested twice along with others, in the early and late 8O’s for speaking in the Queen St Mall.

Every Friday night some of us would make the 30 minute walk from West End into the city to challenge the Queen St Mall Act. This act declared it illegal to make unauthorised public  speeches in the Mall. We were mostly a motley crew of anarchists, socialists, Christians, and various combinations. A number of us were arrested for this. 

Anyhow, as weeks wore on, it became obvious that some socialists seemed to have an idea of free speech that limited it to those who agreed with them. So, when Anne got up on the soap box to speak about pro-life feminism, they tried to shut her down. Ian, a prominent socialist famously said one Friday night that a foetus was no more human than a brick!

Next week I took a blown-up poster of a ten-week-old in the womb, got up on the soap box, and declared “Look Ian, this is not a brick. It is a beautiful baby!”

His enlightened response was, “It may be a beautiful baby but you’re a germ, so piss off!” 

I did not do that, and I am still at it.

However, 40 years later pro-lifers have got much the same response from governments, the High Court, and even the Qld Council for Civil Liberties. 

The progress of the QCCL has been most fascinating. After my first arrest in 78, I met lawyer Terry O’Gorman at a court case. Terry has been Queensland’s most famous civil liberties lawyer ever since. I have a lot of respect for all he has done over the years. He gave me a lot of help when I was bashed by police once. But sadly Terry, as with the rest of the liberal left, has given way to ideology, and abandoned any pretence of belief in free speech when it comes to the issue of abortion. 

Mind you, it has taken a while. I have a kept a file of correspondence with Terry and the QCCL dating back to 1991. Terry first replied by letter to a friend, “If the police force had been used to remove you or your group, and thereby prevented you from protesting, the Civil Liberties Council would have been immediate and strident in its criticism.”

Hmm, 38 years later is only “immediate” in an archaeological time frame. 

In 2000 in response to the arrest of Graham Preston for merely holding a sign, Terry did once again at least promise to say something:

Those charges were dropped, and alas that was the last we heard from the QCCL who have apparently  declared pro-lifers persona non grata and beyond any civil rights. They simply refuse to respond to our letters and emails.

You see, the war against pro-lifers does not end outside abortion clinics.  Graham Preston, who has been assaulted and abused on countless occasions, for daring to express the wrong opinion, was arrested again two months ago nowhere near an abortion clinic. He was holding two signs, one read, ”This is not a potato” and the other was a very large picture of an unborn baby (alive) in the womb. Someone complained that there was a school nearby (nowhere in sight), and children could be offended. Of course the only ones offended were adults. Graham was arrested after refusing to move, and will appear for trial on 15th May. 

I emailed the QCCL about this, and received no response. I should point out that all our letters have been polite, and all our actions have been nonviolent and peaceful. (Of course the truth of this will never convince those who believe that pro-lifers are violent haters as they hurl their own hateful abuse at us.)

There is so much irony and hypocrisy in this whole debate it is hard to know what to write about. I cannot fail to point out the irony of the law which can jail women such as my wife Anne or Kathy Clubb for up to a year, for merely holding a sign or politely offering a leaflet or help outside an abortion clinic. 

When introducing this law the Palaszczuk governments invited submissions with a paper subtitled: ”A woman’s Right to Choose”. The QCCL made a submission stating, yes, women (or men) should definitely be arrested for choosing to hold a sign or leaflet outside an abortion clinic.  Obviously a fine is not enough for a woman who makes the wrong choice here, and a year’s jail may also be necessary.

And I can’t let this go without looking at some of the madness that passes for a high court decision. 

 Here is one comment by the Chief Justice "Silent but reproachful observance of persons accessing a clinic for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy may be as effective, as a means of deterring them from doing so, as more boisterous demonstrations. Further, there is the pragmatic consideration that "the line between peaceful protest and virulent or, even violent expression against abortion is easily and quickly crossed".

This is obviously written by someone whose chief knowledge of the people and issues involved comes from a TV screen. As for the “the line between……….”, apart from being a ridiculous falsehood, it would negate any form of free speech on any important issue.

Recently politician Fraser Anning was hit with an egg by a young man and retaliated with two punches. Obviously with the Chief Justice’s ruling stated above, we should ban politicians on the campaign trail, as we can see "the line between peaceful protest and virulent or, even violent expression against politicians is easily and quickly crossed". While many, if not most Aussie’s would like the idea of banning politicians on the campaign trail, it is hardly conducive to democracy.

RIP Free speech. 

“When they came for the pro-lifers, I was silent. When they came for…….you? “ -  apologies to Martin Niemöller.


[This article first appeared at and is reproducd here by permission of the author]