Freedom of speech in Burwood: Honest History Factsheet

Update 7 May 2015: further light shed

Open letter by Socialist Equality Party to University of Sydney.

Update 28 April 2015: meetings held

The Socialist Equality Party meetings were held, with audiences of workers and youth.

Update 2.30 pm 18 April and later: meetings on Sydney and elsewhere

As of 22 April, the Socialist Equality Party meetings will be held, in Sydney at Hurstville and at venues in Melbourne and Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Details are here. Subject: ‘Anzac Day, the glorification of militarism and the drive to World War III’.

Earlier in this saga, the SEP provided this media release and this comment regarding the refusal of the University of Sydney to host an SEP meeting because of ‘potential for disruption to activities as a result of the event’. Latest via SMH. (20 April) And Michael Brull put it in context with this evaluation of Reclaim Australia. Open letter to Sydney Uni. Earlier history, see below. It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that this sort of brouhaha – to hold a meeting on a legitimate subject of national interest – is disgraceful in a country that prides itself on its freedom.

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The mainstream media don’t seem to want to touch this one, but here goes from us. We put this in our Centenary Watch feature on 14 April 2015:

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) was going to have a public meeting on 26 April in Burwood Library Auditorium in Sydney. The title of the meeting was ‘Anzac Day, the glorification of militarism and the drive to World War III.’

According to the SEP, opponents of the meeting responded to a post on a Facebook page (The Great Aussie Patriot, associated with a website of the same name, which promotes Reclaim Australia events), made complaints to the Burwood Council, threatened to disrupt the meeting, and the Council cancelled the booking. Samples of the Facebook page follow (see 10 April at 10.17 am) [this section of the page has been taken down since]:

Absolutely fucked! I for one am happy to stand proud and tall to remember our ANZAC’s and anyone who wants to put them down should be shot and called a traitor!

What these halfwits don’t get is if these men and women didn’t lay down their lives then they would not have any rights at all and that includes their freedom of speech and their freedom to do this kind of crap that should be seen in the same light as treason.

My grandfather had his health and the rest of his life ruined in Changi prison during ww2 you filthy fucking grubs so that you have the freedom to spew your filth you gutless fucks. I bet u wouldn’t have the balls to say it in a less civilised society because you know you and your family would disappear.

The SEP says this:

The willingness of the Labor Party-controlled council to align itself with representatives of “The Great Australian Patriot” underscores the correctness of the assessment made by the SEP about the agenda behind the multi-million dollar commemorations of the centenary of World War I and the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. As we wrote in our announcement of the April 26 meetings: “The coming Anzac Day ‘celebrations’ are about the present, not the past. They are part of the conscious efforts of the media, and the corporate and political establishment to indoctrinate youth with patriotism, drown out anti-war sentiment and ideologically condition the population for new military confrontations.”

Honest History asked Burwood Council for a comment (at first by phone and then by email) and this came:

Dear Sir/Madam: Burwood Council has received your email. It will be forwarded to the appropriate Council officer for attention. Should you require further information please contact Customer Service on 9911 9911. Please do not reply to this e-mail.

Burwood Council

Four days later and still not a peep from Council. Maybe there is an issue about who is ‘the appropriate Council officer’. Meanwhile, the SEP has been active. It:

The editorial included a statement of the links between war then and war now, as seen by the SEP (and, one suspects, by many other people, even if they might not use the same language):

The nationalist frenzy accompanying Anzac Day is not about past events of 100 years ago, but about silencing anti-war sentiment today in order to legitimise the criminal militarist foreign policy of the Abbott National-Liberal coalition government and its partner in Washington. The Australian ruling elite and its political parties—both Labor and Liberal-National—are serving as one of the closest allies of US imperialism in its military interventions around the world. Today, 330 Australian troops leave for a two-year deployment to Iraq, joining more than 600 troops already in the Middle East. At the same time, behind the backs of the Australian population, Abbott’s government, and those of his Labor predecessors, Rudd and Gillard, have integrated Australia into Washington’s “pivot” to Asia, including the expansion of American bases and deployments throughout the country, and incorporated the Australian military into US plans for war with China.

Now, we have no idea how many people are signed up with the Socialist Equality Party. There could be so few of them that they can meet in a telephone box. (Their website is very useful for an alternative view of all sorts of issues.) The SEP is a federally registered political party and has been contesting federal elections since 1977, first under its previous name, the Socialist Labour League, and since 1996 as the SEP.

We don’t give a toss how few SEPers there are or what their views are. The families of World War I dead soldiers received from a grateful King a piece of paper and a medallion, known as the King’s or Dead Man’s Penny, around the outside of which were inscribed the words ‘He Died for Freedom and Honour’. We are naive enough to think that ‘Freedom’ includes the freedom to have awkward views, even in Burwood. And if redneck bullies want to try to stop this happening then public bodies have some responsibility to stop the rednecks, again, even in Burwood.

As now elderly journo Bob Ellis was wont to say, ‘prove that we’re wrong’. Over to you, Burwood Council. We will print unamended anything you send us. It would be particularly interesting to see what the Great Aussie Patriot said to Council.

Meanwhile, given the SEP allegations of pressure by the Great Aussie Patriot/Reclaim Australia on Council, here is a Reclaim Australia/Great Aussie Patriot flyer, a list of approved slogans and a collection of Eureka Brigade videos. The videos include attacks on Islam, instructions on how to make weapons, Anzac Day at two NSW country towns, and ‘the Truth about Cronulla’.

David Stephens

18 April 2015

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