Society

Why aren’t Hamas Groupies Forced to Pay?

Free speech is a bedrock of democracy.  But we should be clear on what it is.  And what it isn’t.   Essentially it means that, except in extreme circumstances you, an individual, cannot be prosecuted for expressing an opinion that the government does not like. 

It is commonly accepted that the right to assemble and to protest is a manifestation of free speech.   Thus, there has been an almost slavish tolerance, even on the part of many conservatives, towards these pro-Palestinian protests on the streets and on university campuses.   Apparently, on the basis that the principle of free speech must be upheld at almost any cost. 

But protests are more than just an expression of free speech.  They are also political action.  They are designed to pressure – even to intimidate – governments to act in a certain way.  They attempt to circumvent the parliamentary process. The website of the Australian Attorney-General’s Office tells us:

The right to peaceful assembly protects the right of individuals and groups to meet and to engage in peaceful protest.

This right does not exist in the Constitution or the common law.  In Australia, it is given force by international covenants to which we are signatory.  Also, from the AG website:

Australia is a party to seven core international human rights treaties. The right to freedom of assembly and association is contained in articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and article 8(1)(a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

And that is a good thing.  Citizens should have the right to directly petition the government in this manner if they believe normal representations through their elected representatives will not be effective. But how inviolable is this right?  It cannot be absolute. The A-G’s website tells us:

Derogation: Under article 4 of the ICCPR, countries may take measures derogating from certain of their obligations under the Covenant, including the right to freedom of assembly and association ‘in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed.

Limitation: In addition, under article 21 freedom of assembly may be subject to restrictions imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

I would argue that, in a practical sense, such inviolability as the right to protest possesses is limited by the extent to which a protest is designed to protect the rights and interests of Australian citizens from the actions or inactions of an Australian government.  Ideally, it should relate to an issue that is within the power of an Australian government to redress.  And protests must be proportionate. Their purpose is to send a message to government.  Not to punish it, and by extension the Australian people.  We punish governments at the ballot box.

These pro-Palestinian protests relate to matters which are outside the power of the Australian government.  Certainly, the government could accede to demands to recognize Palestine, to condemn Israel and so forth.  But none of these measures would have the slightest effect in the Middle East. Israel is fighting for its survival.

They do not represent the genuine interests of Australian taxpayers. They are grotesque and self-indulgent street theatre, and dangerously divisive at that. But it’s not just the offence to and intimidation of the Jewish community that is problematic. Encouraged by hate preachers and emboldened by useful idiots from our Marcuse-corrupted institutions, these protestors seem determined to entrench themselves as a despised minority in a country that has given them a home.  That is a recipe for disaster.  These protests are not an expression of differing political opinion but a flouting of values that are inimical to those upon which Australia was built. They are effectively a declaration of war on the West and its values.  Many Australians will be asking themselves ‘just how fringe is this fringe group of extremist Muslims?’  And, worse, they are taking many of our youth with them.

Protests also come with a financial cost.  NSW Premier Chris Minns revealed that policing a major protest can cost up to $1 million.  What is the bill for the many pro-Palestinian protests across the country? My guesstimate, and I believe it’s a modest one, would be that these protests have cost the  taxpayer well in excess of $100 million.  How much more will we rack up before state governments say enough is enough?

Why should the ‘free speech’ of protestors impose a financial burden on taxpayers, rather than on the protest organisers? Some years ago the Andrews regime in Victoria tried to charge promoters of Milos Yiannopoulos’ speaking tour, but that’s not what I mean, not at all. His audience had to walk a gauntlet of lefties flinging abuse and worse, so of course VicPol had a responsibility to keep order. Weekly demonstrations that close streets and snarl traffic while keeping police from more pressing duties are a different matter entirely. At race meetings and footy matches, police are paid by organisers to be present and to regulate traffic. If state governments do not have the intestinal fortitude to stop these protests, they should at least bill the organisers for the police protection that they (the governments) deem essential, as they did the organisers of CPAC in 2022.

That we have, since 9 October, indulged these disruptive and hate-filled protests out of, in my view, a misplaced adherence to the doctrine of free speech, has now led to the situation in which imams can preach death to Jews with impunity and masked thugs can set fire to an MPs office without being labelled terrorists.  We are reaping what we have sown. Recently, A/Prof Andy Smidt, writing in The Australian, said:

I watched a camp being set up in front of the main quadrangle with a sense of unease. The encampment was occupied by pro-Palestinian groups – many of whom were not university students or staff.

Staff were struggling to maintain the high standards of education due to the noise, disruption and protesters forcing their way into classrooms to make announcements. Many have resorted to working from home or taking leave.

In response, Scott has all but said Jewish students and staff must get used to feeling “uncomfortable” in the name of free speech.

Conflating the right to protest with free speech is fraught with danger.  For one thing it equates action with speech. Free speech is a form of debate. You may not be in Parliament, or Council or whatever, but you do have the right to publicly express your opinion and, hopefully, influence enough elected members to embrace your position. 

And if you feel strongly enough about your position, you might form an action group to gain strength in numbers.  Your aim would be to convince government that your cause is so strongly supported that it should be taken notice of.  You can do this by petition, or you can gather peacefully, outside Parliament House or wherever, to make your point.  The greater the numbers the stronger will be your effect.  Your aim would, or should, be to convince government to take your concerns seriously.  This is a form of debate and is a legitimate exercise of free speech.

But the form of protest we have become accustomed to, and too accepting of, is not debating.  It is political action.  That, of itself, is not contentious, but it should allow us to impose suitable constraints without, at the same time, involving semantic contortions to accommodate a purist free speech position.

Protests elevate the mob over the individual, as we have seen with the reaction of pro-Palestinian protestors towards lone or small groups of counter-protestors. On October 21 last year, I watched a pro-Palestinian march in Sydney.  It was escorted by a phalanx of 800 police officers – not to protect the marchers from attack by Zionists, but to protect them from themselves – to ensure they didn’t chant ‘Gas the Jews’, as they did on the Opera House steps. If a protest requires a police presence other than for minor traffic control, then it is not free speech.

If police have to prevent counter-protestors from appearing – as they routinely do – then this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an exercise of free speech.   Severely disrupting people as they go about their daily lives, as climate protestors love to do, is not free speech.  Gathering outside synagogues to ‘support’ Palestine, by shouting ‘anti-Zionist’ slogans, is not free speech, even if the protest is essentially ‘peaceful’ i.e., that no physical violence occurs.  Intimidation is not free speech.  Desecrating Australian war memorials is not free speech, as Green’s leader Adam Bandt recently intimated.

Recently, speaking with Peta Credlin in relation to the invasion of Parliament House, Peter Dutton opined that our passive acceptance of months of aggressive and abusive protests have given a ‘social licence’ (to use a term that I normally abhor) to extremists to commit acts of unconscionable vandalism and intimidation. Or words to that effect.  He is right.  This manifestation of official impotence has its genesis in the laughable sentences often handed out to serious offenders in the ‘climate wars’ – on the grounds that their heart is in the right place.

Whether you like it or not, we are now at war.  And in war we censor free speech. That is a serious step, not to be undertaken lightly nor without appropriate checks and balances.  It should be the last freedom we curtail.  But, in my view, the right to protest, which as we have seen can be so much more immediately destructive than someone standing on a soap box in the Domain, can and should be much more stringently regulated.  And to facilitate this process, we must cease to cloak each and every protest with the mantle of free speech and thus proscribing it only when it involves physical violence or incitement to violence.  These pro-Palestinian protests have wrought severe psychological violence on the nation. And as I said earlier, they are amassing a huge cost.

When it comes to the right to protest, the role of government is to uphold it.  Not to roll out the red carpet for it, especially in its more noxious manifestations.

12 thoughts on “Why aren’t Hamas Groupies Forced to Pay?

  • padmmdpat says:

    So, Adam Bandt intimated that spraying slogans on the War Memorial is freedom of speech. How about if I spray this across the front of his house – ‘This is freedom of speech, Adam Bandt.’ I wonder what his response would be.

  • DougD says:

    Adam Bandt intimated that spraying slogans on the War Memorial is freedom of speech. Poor ignorant Adam. It’s not speech but the criminal offence of wilful damage to property. And Adam should be prosecuted for counselling that offence.

  • padraic says:

    And it is not just the sickos who are abusing “freedom of speech”. What about some of those who work one way or another in Parliamernt House. Any member of the public who has visited Parliament House in Canberra knows that it would be impossible for a member of the public to get past the security people at the front entrance with those enormous drapes and their juvenile undergraduate messages to be unfurled over the front of the building. It had to be an “inside job” by someone who worked there and had vehicle access to the staff/Member parking area. Let’s hope that a frank and fearless journalist will soon reveal how it was done. and if proven then there should be some punishment meted out.

  • Patrick McCauley says:

    So are police forces actually instruments of the state and its laws … or are they instruments of their union ? Why do they allow counter protests to take place at the exact time and place of the protest they oppose ? Why do they charge conservative speakers ( Gert Wilders was another) but not Leftists AntiFa anti western Marxist professionals ? What treachery is afoot with demonstrators escaping conviction for vandalism and setting fire to Parliament House doors or scaling our National Iconic Parliament ? Perhaps the Police Union is instructing the police and not the state. Perhaps the state is being run by the CFMEU ?

  • Tony Thomas says:

    For the Geert Wilders meeting in Melbourne, see the first-hand account by Roger Franklin and myself here
    https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2013/02/with-wilders-on-the-road-to-woe/

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Another great article from Peter O’Brien having the courage to tackle this issue head on. Something the mainstream media seem to be too reluctant to do nearly enough.
    .
    This is a democratic issue. And the answer to it is democratic. But there’s absolutely no need to debate the finer points of when free speech crosses the line to become democratically unacceptable and criminal.
    .
    We are already well past that point. For example the violent arson attack on the electoral office of a Jewish Labor MP – endangering the lives of people nearby – and implicitly threatening the safety of that MP for his rather muted support of Israel is well past the point of free speech. It’s closer to terrorism.
    .
    And that is simply one of the many incidents which clearly have already crossed the line. A large number of these continuing so called protests are unequivocally no longer – if they in fact ever were – an expression of free speech.
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    They started at the Sydney Opera House just days after the inhuman terrorist atrocities of October 7, 2023, before Israel had even responded militarily.
    .
    Arguably that demonstration crossed the line. It was arguably in favour of the October 7 terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas – a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia. It could hardly be protesting against an Israeli military response because there clearly hadn’t been one then. ( Incidentally I refuse to debate with anyone who supported that Opera House protest. It’s my opinion anyone supporting that protest is disingenuous when they purport to be in favour of peace).
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    There was only one arrest at the Opera House demonstration – of an innocent Jewish man who’d done absolutely nothing wrong at all. He just unfortunately happened to be there.
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    That protest last year gave potentially violent protestors the green light that they were unlikely to be prosecuted. They’ve continued to take advantage of that green light from last year to now when we’ve just seen the violent arson attack on the Jewish MP’s electoral office.
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    Such stances of the federal and state governments are responsible for the continuing violence and intimidation. Their lack of effective action since early in October last year has encouraged these illegal acts. There’s been a total lack of effective action.
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    This is clearly no longer a free speech issue. It probably hasn’t been since October, 2023.
    .
    It’s also informative to contrast the lack of action by the Albanese government with the actions they’re taken against their own Senator Payman. To my mind she is totally misguided in her support of the Palestinian side. However her protest was completely peaceful. She simply crossed the floor against Labor to follow her conscience.
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    And her position is not all that different to Labor’s anyway – although Labor would like to portray it as if it were. A careful reading of Labor Senator Wong’s statement after Labor supported upgrading Palestine’s situation at the UN shows that.
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    Labor has come down on Senator Payman like a ton of bricks. She seems to have been forced to resign from the party. There are even accusations of a whispering campaign against her personally by Labor – directed against her right to citizenship. That’s incredible given she was an endorsed Labor candidate. But it’s a telling indictment of Labor’s hypocrisy on this issue. Labor seems far more concerned about power, than peace on our streets.
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    In the absence of Labor governments taking effective action the remedy is clear. If anyone doesn’t agree with Labor’s irresponsible response to the problem don’t vote for them.
    .
    It’s also up to the federal Coalition to draw attention to the issues I’ve covered. They have already but they could be more forceful than they’ve been. The Greens, Labor and the Teals are vulnerable in seats like McNamara ( where the violent arson attack on the Jewish MP’s office took place) and other seats like Wentworth.
    .
    The Coalition hasn’t exactly been Labor lite on this issue ( like they have on the economy for example) but they could be far stronger than they’ve been. If not in the interests of peace on our streets at least in their own electoral interests.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Thank you, Balanced Observation

    • BalancedObservation says:

      Thank you Peter and thank you again for your generous comment on your previous article.
      .
      Keep up your good work. It’s vital.

      There aren’t enough people like you standing up with courage on these issues, certainly our mainstream media and certainly not in Labor – not even in the Coalition.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON says:

    The government, like many in the media and general population are ignorant of Islam. I recently witnessed on a Sky News session featuring James Morrow interviewing a so called expert on Islam who advised that political Islam is an aberation of Islam that’s responsible for Islamic uprisings such as the pro Hamas / pro Palestinian protests around the world. The implication being that this political Islam is counter to the aims of genuine Islam. If that’s the case then why are there no protests from good Muslims about this political counterfeit?

    • BalancedObservation says:

      STJOHNOFGRAFTON

      Extremely good question.

      However there’s a simple explanation why we don’t see Muslims demonstrating against pro Hamas protests for example. It would be too dangerous for them to do so.
      .
      We see comparatively few Jewish or other groups demonstrating against Hamas for the same reason. It’s simply too dangerous.
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      But if the Jewish community and others think that, it would be far more dangerous for Muslims to protest against Muslims – the backlash you’d imagine would be very dangerous for them. They’d be seen as traitors.
      .
      The case of Niyak Ghorbani, is illustrative of just how dangerous it is. He simply held up a placard saying ” Hamas is Terrorist”.
      .
      Mr Ghorbani, an Iranian who lives in Balham, south London, told The Telegraph he had been assaulted by pro-Palestine protesters as he stood holding his sign. He said: “They attacked me from behind and hit me in the head. They pushed me and told me Hamas is a protector of Palestine.”
      .
      I’m not sure whether he’s a Muslim or not but it does show how dangerous it can be even in the West to say such a truthful thing on the street.
      .
      And astoundingly the danger doesn’t simply come from pro Palestinian demonstrators – it also came from the London police.
      .
      According to reports from local media and social media posts, Ghorbani was taken to the ground and handcuffed by five police officers during the rally. In an interview Ghorbani expressed frustration with what he perceived as double standards in policing, stating, “I think the police have it all wrong. There are double standards. There is one rule for the Palestinian demonstrators and another for me. It’s hypocrisy.”
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      He was later released without charge.
      .
      That police action is not inconsistent with the only arrest at the pro Palestinian protest at the Sydney Opera House, immediately after the terrorist atrocities of October 7 and before Israel had even responded militarily. The only arrest was of a peaceful Jewish man, who like Ghorbani was released without charge.
      .
      These examples show how badly democratic governments have responded – you could even argue their inaction or even their actions have encouraged the violence we are seeing like the recent violent arson attack on a Jewish MP’s electoral office in Melbourne.

  • lenton1 says:

    Free speech and freedom of expression does NOT mean a free-for-all.

    As for anything Adam Bandt has to say, that’s always free … from any sense, sensibility, logic or decency. And despite the depths of depravity the Greens continue to descend to, Bob Brown incredulously continues to support it. What a travesty Mr. Brown has wrought upon our world. Not a legacy that time will be kind to.

  • BalancedObservation says:

    Thankfully we have The Australian in Australia to give us more balance on these issues.
    .
    But I’d argue there’s a problem at The Australian with the moderation of comments.
    .
    Below is an example of a comment of mine censored swiftly by the moderation staff at The Australian today, Saturday, July 13.
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    It was a comment I made on an article by Paul Kelly entitled “Lachlan Murdoch on the power of free thinking”.
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    It’s fascinating and reassuring to read about Lachlan Murdoch’s opinions. But pretty disappointing to be censored so swiftly making a fair and balanced comment on the article, especially when the article partly covers the issue of free speech.
    .
    Here’s my comment which was censored – it starts with a quote of Lachlan Murdoch:

    ” ‘I believe that if it wasn’t for The Australian today, if the policy debate in Australia today was being driven by the ABC, then we would be a totally different country.’
    .
    An extremely insightful comment by Lachlan Murdoch.
    .
    He’s certainly not overplaying the positive influence of The Australian on Australian politics nor the problematic influence of the ABC. And I say that as a person who’s been reading The Australian from its first edition. I had been listening to ABC news religiously too for just as long. But I no longer watch or listen to any news item on the ABC. It’s now just too compromised to be objective.
    .
    Lachlan Murdoch has done an outstanding job since taking the reins from his father – his father to whom we owe so much in Australia for his contribution to balance in our media.
    .
    However we’d have the same problem if The Australian were run by the people who handle moderation at The Australian as we’d have if we had to rely solely on the ABC for news.
    .
    Moderation at the Australian respects free speech far less than say moderation at the Wall Street Journal. I have comments manipulated and/or censored on a daily basis at The Australian. I cannot recall ever having a single comment either censored or manipulated at the Wall Street Journal in all the years I’ve been posting there. “

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