When Canadian conservative commentators Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux toured Australia in July the nation’s leftist activist groups did all they could to prevent the planned speaking events happen. They organised counter-protests and threatened potential venues with boycotts and bad reviews. The mainstream media affirmed this conduct by calling Southern and Molyneux far-right and alt-right activists who held extreme views on race and immigration that were dangerous to be aired in multicultural Australia.
No city’s leftist activists were more determined to wreak havoc at Southern and Molyneux’s event than in Melbourne. The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism and Yelling at Racist Dogs led the charge who are associated with the left wing terrorist group Antifa. After countless venues cancelled the tour organiser Axiomatic Events eventually were able to host the Melbourne event at the La Mirage in Somerton in the city’s far north. These groups still made the trip north and blocked buses traveling to the venue, damaged private property and yelled obscenities at those attending.
To ensure the safety of attendees Axiomatic had their own private security, but because the event was deemed to endanger public order Victoria Police officers and specialist units were deployed to the venue. Despite the threat to public order coming from people uninvited to the event and that the described “role of Victoria Police is to serve the Victorian Community” with the force funded through taxation Axiomatic was hit with a $67,842.50 bill for police services outside. The left boasted about the fact the created the conditions for this bill to be issued.
It is not the first time a right wing speaking event which attracted counter protestors has been billed by Victoria Police. When Milo Yiannopoulos first toured Australia in December 2017 the tour organisers Penthouse were sent a $50,000 bill for police services. Like Penthouse Axiomatic is refusing to pay the Victoria Police bill calling it a “Thugs’ Veto” and a form of “victim-blaming”.
To fight the legality of this police bill Axiomatic Director David Pellowe has founded the Free Speech Coalition with its first action to raise a legal fighting fund. The Coalition aims to prevent “a precedent by which other event organisers around Australia will change or even cancel their plans to hold political events which might attract the unwanted attention of extremists, and subsequently an enormous bill from law enforcement”.
Given that these police bills are only issued in Victoria in its media release the Free Speech Coalition squarely takes aim at the state Andrews Labor Government for this unique policy “The Andrews government has the gall to call this ‘user pays’ policing…if Police Minister Lisa Neville is looking for creative ways to fundraise for Victoria Police she can keep looking” and mentions the further enabling of aggressive leftist activism these bills create “sending us the bill for their lawlessness appears to be simply enabling the Thugs’ Veto”.
Also published on the Free Speech Coalition website is the letter David Pellowe sent to Victoria Police stating in detail why he will not be paying the bill. He stresses he has no issue with police who were deployed at Somerton on night of the Melbourne show and is”sincerely grateful for the police presence on that day” and Axiomatic understands the officers who are involved in the issuing and collection of this bill “are embarrassed and that they consider their integrity compromised”.
The letter makes clear if “there remains any intention on the part of Victoria Police to seek to recover from Axiomatic any “fees”, then please note that this attempt will be vigorously resisted” and “If Victoria Police is obliged to be complicit in this strategy [of the left] that is a matter of serious concern. It is subversive of public confidence in the rule of law”.
The legal avenues that Axiomatic is looking at the fight this bill is the High Court’s recognized an implied freedom of communication in relation to political matters for which the issuing of this bill severely restricts the ability of political groups or activists to meet freely to discuss issues of political importance. But to begin with Axiomatic will seek a judicial review to challenge the delegated regulatory power that led to the issuing of this bill.
The Free Speech Coalition stresses it “is not about standing up for two particular speakers. Our goal remains to set a precedent that protects free speech for people of all views” with extra monies “used to combat similar attacks on free speech and lawful assembly”.
With other high profile names Nigel Farage, Gavin McInnes, Ann Coulter and again Milo Yiannopoulos set to speak in Melbourne before years end it is likely we will see promoters hit with further police bills as the The Campaign Against Racism and Fascism and Yelling at Racist Dogs and have already made their intention clear to disrupt these events. The Free Speech Coalition is supported by other free speech organistions the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance and LibertyWorks.
Any legal action is not cheap with no guarantee of success but with free speech in Victoria on the line the Free Speech Coalition is certainly a timely organisation.