Free speech dogged by politics of difference

The Sydney Morning Herald 21 January 2013
By Paul Sheehan

The obvious question is, what are they afraid of? Is it fear of violence, or vandalism, or simply fear of association? Debbie Robinson, a small business operator who describes herself as an ordinary citizen, wants to bring to Australia a Dutch political leader who is a supporter of democracy, freedom of religion, feminism and gay rights. But when she started making arrangements all she encountered was fear.

''In Sydney, venues that were initially available were cancelled or would not take the booking when they realised who the speaker was,'' she told me. She provided a list of rejections: the Hilton Hotel, North Sydney Leagues Club, Sydney Masonic Centre, Wesley Convention Centre, Luna Park Function Centre, the Concourse at Chatswood and the Sir John Clancy Auditorium at the University of NSW.

''I offered a church-based venue in Sydney a donation and their reply was, 'You could offer $4 million and we would not accept your booking'.'' (continue reading...)