A valued and celebrated contributor for free speech
In a very moving gesture of solidarity with Andrew Bolt over his recent trial under the Racial Vilification Act, well over 500 people turned out last night to listen to several speakers arguing the importance of free speech in Australia.
Organised by the IPA, the speakers included Paul Howes, Dr David Kemp, Michael Kroger, Professor Jim Allan, and a highly amusing video message from Mark Steyn.
Jim Allan explained, in the light of the specific legislation, why freedom of speech necessarily involved offending some people:
The only sort of free speech that matters is the sort that offends some people somewhere. In a situation where all is agreement and harmony and people sitting in circles, holding hands, and singing Kumbaya, the concept of liberty and free speech does nothing. You will never have to fight for it meaning a freedom only to act or speak within the bounds of agreed opinion, good taste and proper decorum just isn’t valuable. It doesn’t carry with it any obvious good consequences.
The threat to our freedom of speech in the West today does not come from some Soviet-style secret police. No, it comes from turf-protecting bureaucrats who find themselves all of a sudden in the human rights game; it comes from people who want to create a right not to be offended.
David Kemp gave a brilliant analysis of why Michael Lavarch, former Labor attorney General, was directly responsible for drafting what is effectively an anti-democratic, stifling and dangerous piece of legislation, that should urgently be abolished.
All the speeches, all remarkably incisive and passionate defences of freedom of speech, including Mark Stein’s very very amusing but powerful message,
should be up on the IPA website soon. is now available.
In the meantime, with two standing ovations, the atmosphere was charged with overwhelming good will, support and dare I say, pride and gratitude towards Andrew Bolt for his strong stands on so many issues. Bolt, unsurprisingly, was slightly overwhelmed and moved to speechlessness by this groundswell of support for him.
He is, after all, slightly shy and very modest. Way back in 2004 I interviewed and wrote a profile on him, Bolt on Bolt, in the IPA Review. I observed then:
WHEN one meets Andrew Bolt, one is struck by extreme courtesy, warmth, directness and lack of pretension. This would be a surprise if one took seriously the remarks of those who criticize him: Attila the Hun, inflammatory right-winger, a tick-a-box, hey-look-at-me commentator, insane, Islam Basher, racist [obligatory], a petty, embittered little man, a sociopath … it goes on, and on.
So who exactly is this mild-mannered, polite commentator now gaining national recognition?
Well, that was seven years ago. The answer to that is now clear. Last night was a strong message to Bolt that he is valued, that he has become even more important as the present, increasingly toxic atmosphere has rendered public debate in Australia more intolerant. As he put it then:
How does one resist this success of the Left and the media in pushing the idea that if a shoe isn’t on the left foot, there’s only one other foot that it could be on?
The support for him, not only last night, but with his blog and the ratings for his new Bolt Report can only suggest that people listen and do understand.