Victoria Police will no longer pursue bills they issued to organisers of right-wing speaking events in Melbourne.
These bills consisted of $50,000 to Penthouse Australia operator Damien Costas who organised the 2017 Australian tour of Milo Yiannopoulos; and $67,842.50 to Dave Pellowe of Axiomatic Events who organised the 2018 tour of Canadians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux.
Police where deployed at the Melbourne events of both tours to handle the aggressive protests of Antifa and socialist-aligned groups in the city. These groups provoked a confrontation with the attendees at the Milo event. This clash dragged through the legal system for 18 months after both sides were charged. Protest groups stopped and rocked a bus that was on its way to the Southern and Molyneux event.
Despite all the aggression coming from people who were not attending the event, the organisers were issued with the bill to keep these uninvited guests out. It appeared to be an exercise in victim-blaming, with the view being that because these speakers held views that triggered people they should expect people to disrupt their private events.
Costas and Pellowe refused to pay the Victoria Police bills, arguing that the Victorian Government has no legal or moral right to invoice law-abiding citizens holding events due to the conduct of uninvited outsides.
Dave Pellowe, to garner public support and awareness of the injustice of these police bills, founded the Free Speech Coalition. Through this organisation he was able to solicit legal advice from lawyers, judges and legal academics on the unlawfulness of these police bills under Victoria Police (fees and charges) Regulations 2014. Through the Coalition, Pellowe vowed to challenge the police bill all the way to the High Court.
Now after after a year and half of bluster from Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville that these bills would be paid, Victoria Police has now admitted it cannot legally enforce these charges.
Dave Pellowe discussed the great news and the humiliating backdown from the Victorian Government on a blog post on his personal website, and in an appearance on 3AW with Neil Mitchell on Friday morning.
It is a win for free speech and freedom of association. It is also enforces the understanding we had of our police that it is not a private security firm hired on a pay-per-use basis, but a public service that is funded through already existing government-enforced taxes.
Another good outcome from the withdrawal of these police bills is that Antifa and socialist groups in Victoria are no longer encouraged to protest and disrupt right-wing speaking events they disagree with, in the hope of running up expensive police bills to deter organisers from bringing out future speakers.