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Is free speech dead?

By Jim Dowling - posted Friday, 26 April 2019

“It's not enough that so many babies have been killed, but now free speech has been killed as well," Kathy Clubb pro-life activist fined $5000 for offering a leaflet

"This is a great result that enshrines respect for women's choices." Dr Susie Allanson, clinical psychologist at the Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic for 26 years.

Yes, free speech is dead in this country, killed by its very guardians, the High Court of Australia, and “liberal” civil libertarians.


Forty one years ago on February 4th 1978, I was arrested under the Joh Bjelke Peterson regime for being a political enemy and taking part in a street march. Four months ago in the same state of Queensland I was arrested, along with my wife Anne, by (as I termed it in court) the “Joh Bjelke”/ Palaszczuk regime, for being a political enemy and holding signs which read “Support Mothers, Not Abortion” and “Human Rights for all Human Beings”.

In between I was arrested twice along with others, in the early and late 8O’s for speaking in the Queen St Mall.

Every Friday night some of us would make the 30 minute walk from West End into the city to challenge the Queen St Mall Act. This act declared it illegal to make unauthorised public speeches in the Mall. We were mostly a motley crew of anarchists, socialists, Christians, and various combinations. A number of us were arrested for this.

Anyhow, as weeks wore on, it became obvious that some socialists seemed to have an idea of free speech that limited it to those who agreed with them. So, when Anne got up on the soap box to speak about pro-life feminism, they tried to shut her down. Ian, a prominent socialist famously said one Friday night that a foetus was no more human than a brick!

Next week I took a blown-up poster of a ten-week-old in the womb, got up on the soap box, and declared “Look Ian, this is not a brick. It is a beautiful baby!”

His enlightened response was, “It may be a beautiful baby but you’re a germ, so piss off!”


I did not do that, and I am still at it.

However, 40 years later pro-lifers have got much the same response from governments, the High Court, and even the Qld Council for Civil Liberties. 

The progress of the QCCL has been most fascinating. After my first arrest in 78, I met lawyer Terry O’Gorman at a court case. Terry has been Queensland’s most famous civil liberties lawyer ever since. I have a lot of respect for all he has done over the years. He gave me a lot of help when I was bashed by police once. But sadly Terry, as with the rest of the liberal left, has given way to ideology, and abandoned any pretence of belief in free speech when it comes to the issue of abortion.

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About the Author

Jim Dowling lives in Brisbane and writes on peace and justice issues.

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