This week Blair Cottrell’s appeal trial against his conviction under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act is finally taking place. Given I’ve been in attendance at the County Court on the midweek edition of WilmsFront I provide my analysis as the trial reaches its conclusion and explore if free speech in Australia is really on trial?
Cottrell, along with fellow patriot activists and former United Patriots Front colleagues Neil Erikson and Christopher Shortis, were found guilty under the Act in a trial at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in September 2017.
The charges against the trio were related to a mock beheading stunt they performed outside Bendigo’s Council building during the United Patriots Front’s activism against the construction of a mosque in the regional Victorian city in 2015. It was published on their Facebook to promote an upcoming rally in the city
There are three grounds which Blair Cottrell’s lawyer John Bolton’s arguing. The conviction should be quashed based on substantive evidence. That the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act violates Cottrell’s rights Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsilibities, plus his implied freedom to political communication under Australia’s Constitution.
I play my opening remarks from the court on Monday, an update after all the substantive evidence and charter arguments on Tuesday. Plus my interview with Blair Cottrell following John Bolton’s arguments on the constitutional validity question. I end providing own analysis and reflections on what this case means for the meaning of free speech in Australia.