Soapbox Speakers

What is Speakers’ Corner?

In Speakers and hecklers. on March 8, 2015 at 11:51 pm

“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” 
Gerry Spence.

‘To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.’
Olin Miller

Every Sunday, from 2pm until 5pm, people gather in Sydney’s beautiful Domain park to discuss matters. The ones standing on ladders are ‘the speakers’, and they believe it’s their job to educate  their ‘grasshoppers’ or ‘groundlings’.  The ones sitting in chairs believe it’s their job to point out why the speaker is wrong, and to heckle. Both parties are kept busy.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

This sums up the relationship between the speakers and the hecklers.

‘It’s good to have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.’
Carl Sagan

Find past posts  on our Archives site.

The Speakers and Hecklers.

Steve Maxwell, historian and political commentator.

Steve Maxwell is the world authority on Speakers’ Corners and soapbox speakers. He has written a book on the subject, travelled to many Speakers’ Corners throughout the world (and participated), he is the author of ‘Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade‘, and Steve’s Domain Diary, and he has spoken at Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner for yonks. We are very fortunate to have him.

In various personas, but always engaging, Steve talks about religion, Australian history and politics. Click here for highlights. To see more videos of Steve, go to the archives site. From his book, ‘Soapbox Oratory‘ Steve writes: ‘In a modern city, there must be a place where strangers can meet and discuss the issues of the day without fear of persecution; where the right to retain one’s individuality is allowed.


Vladimir has a wide range of contemporary topics, such as the dangers of cancel-culture and the expansion of the ‘nanny state’. He says both are inhibiting free speech and eroding our civil liberties. He also sinks his boot into companies like Facebook. Further, he examines the ways we meet one another and treat one another. Do we speak openly and honestly, or so vaguely that people have to guess what we are saying? Is our society condoning misandry?
Each week it is a new topic. His material is interesting, well presented, and relevant to current affairs. Come along and hear what he has to say, and if you disagree with him, tell him!

Mr Bashful, epiphany specialist.

Epiphany specialist Mr Bashful claims he is the spiritual advisor to the Dalai Lama, though that is yet to be verified. He calls his listeners his ‘grasshoppers’ and his foes ‘garden gnomes’. His favourite topic is his evolutionary approach to happiness and resilience, but he ends up talking about almost anything else.  (He has more than 300 topics.) He presented a talk on the Ockham’s Razor program on ABC Radio National, won Radio National’s ‘Now Hear This!‘ competition, and believes we should burn the Mona Lisa.

One thing he isn’t, is bashful.

He has been accused of being Yours Truly, this blog’s scribe. However, both of us emphatically deny that.

To learn more about him click here.

Helmut Cerncic, metaphysicist  (occasional speaker)

Helmut 4

Helmut once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest and in Sydney worked as the professional wrestler, Helmut Rommel.
More importantly, Helmut knows a lot about metaphysics, and is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus.
Helmut calls his listeners his ‘groundlings’. Here are some highlights.
For more videos of Helmut, go to the archives site and to his own site, Is Science the New Religion?’.

“Curious Steve”

Steve has unorthodox ideas – exactly what you would want from a speaker at Speakers’ Corner. His signs give an indication of his topics. When asked what he thought of his passers-by he said, “I wish they were more intelligent.” So, if you are going to debate with him, have your wits about you!



David (occasional speaker)


David is a natural speaker, who, during the Covid lockdowns, railed against the inhumane restrictions imposed upon us. And, having recently become a Christian, he also speaks passionately about the Christian go.

John August (occasional speaker)

John speaks earnestly on a wide range of subjects, and hosts his own show on Radio Skid Row, 88.9 FM every Tuesday, from noon until 2pm.

John is an active member of the Pirate Party, which is a serious political party devoted to making Australia more democratic. He and other pirates speak at the Domain now and then about their policies and other topical matters. (That’s ‘topical’, not ‘tropical’.)

To see videos of John performing at Speakers’ Corner go to his Youtube channel.
John also has a website in which he comments upon current affairs, both here and abroad.
He is a busy man.

The News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 26th June, 2022

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2022 at 12:48 pm

1. Steve Maxwell’s main topic today was to discuss the wrongs of the extradition of Julian Assange. And he predicts Julian will be back in Australia by July!

Helmut himself admitted he was all over the place with his topics today. Does that mean it was a travel diary?

Mr B planned to discuss the sometimes uneasy relationship between the two (the 50?) human sexes, but he ended up scolding people – old and young – for their poor critical thinking skills!

And Curious Steve added another sign to the two he already has. We hope that next week his topic will be ‘proofreading’.

2. Each week, Vladimir brings new topics to discuss, and they’re varied and contemporary. We are lucky to have him. Today he spoke about:

1. The NSW government plans to introduce new laws to “confiscate unexplained wealth from criminal gangs and ban the use of encrypted devices as part of long-waited reforms to combat money laundering and organised crime”.

Vladimir expressed his concerns that these laws will infringe on civil liberties, be abused by law enforcement in the same way that US civil forfeiture laws have been abused and that foreign cybercriminals will take advantage of any weakening or elimination of data encryption to defraud ordinary Australians.

2. The EU has unanimously approved Ukraine’s candidacy for membership. Vladimir expressed his view that Ukraine will not meet the criteria to be admitted as an EU member any time soon, but sees this gesture more as a message to Russia that Ukraine will continue to receive a high degree of European political, military and/or diplomatic support for the foreseeable future.

3. What can be done to prevent further deterioration of customer service in Australian companies running as monopolies or oligopolies? Vladimir discussed the struggles of Qantas and Telstra customers caused by senior executives determined to deliver profit growth to shareholders at any cost.

4. What is really fuelling gang wars in Sydney’s West – drug use or drug prohibition? Vladimir examines the comments of a magistrate who recently prosecuted a cocaine possession case – “An advertising executive who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession has copped a spray from a magistrate who said it was people like him who were fuelling gang wars in Sydney’s west”:

5. The importance of prosecuting contempt of court by the media to safeguard an individual’s presumption of innocence and the integrity of our criminal justice system. Vladimir discussed Lisa Wilkinson’s Logie award acceptance speech that resulted in the trial of the man accused of sexually assaulting Brittany Higgins to be vacated.

6. The scandal of the $25 million dollar contract to construct an additional flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Is enough being done to ensure that government tender processes give taxpayers value for money?

7. Does being broke protect you from defamation lawsuits? Vladimir discussed Amber Heard’s plans to write a ‘tell-all’ book about her marriage to Johnny Depp, and the possible consequences.

8. A tribute to NASA’s engineering excellence: The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes, now outside the solar system in interstellar space, have been sending back data to Earth for almost 45 years.

9. British police pay a visit to comedian Joe Lycett because someone complained about one of his jokes at his show. Vladimir asks: If you were a comedian, how would your performance be affected if you feared the risk of a police visit if you crossed some undefined line in some random offence-taker’s mind?

10. Australian comedian Rodney Rude recounts his experience of defending himself in court in the 1980s after WA police were offended by one of his jokes. Rude won.

11. Germany fires up old coal power plants as Russia chokes off its vital natural gas supplies – a lesson to Australia to not rely on solar and wind generation.

12. Western countries who have ‘decarbonised’ their electricity grid are relying on hydroelectric and/or nuclear power:

13. Aussie schools install silent vape smoke detectors that imprison students inside bathrooms when vape smoke is detected.

Vladimir asks: could there be a better way of dealing with the negative impacts of vape smoking?

14. Happy 80th birthday to Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys and Paul McCartney from The Beatles! Happy 78th birthday to Ray Davies from The Kinks!

15. University of Sydney study shows that the inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid-to-later life foreshadowed an earlier death than for those who could. Participants were asked to place the front of their free foot on the back of the opposite lower leg, while keeping their arms by their sides and their gaze fixed straight ahead.

These birds will live forever!



3. One of the two trolls who visits Speakers’ Corner brought his daughter today. Unsurprisingly, he behaved well.

4. Our Facebook page has more rights than a woman living in Texas.

The News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 19th June, 2022

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2022 at 12:45 pm

“What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.” 
― Haruki Murakam, Norwegian Wood

1. Steve couldn’t come today but Helmut had a large crowd by 2pm and he kept them entertained.

Mr B started with the common expression: “If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” He used it to explain how some of us use the same emotion to deal with different aspects of our life. He said we need to develop a broad emotional range so that we can react appropriately to each situation.

From the postsecret website:

2. An announcement: Youtube is now placing advertisements on our Youtube videos, and there is not a thing our IT expert, Gecko Prince, can do about it. We had wanted to keep the site advertisement-free.

Youtube will be keeping all the proceeds, too. That’s good, because it’s dirty money. Foisting advertisements onto work they haven’t created, which the creators uploaded on the understanding that the material would be advertisement free, is a low act indeed. If Youtube wants to place advertisements on people’s work, they should do it with videos uploaded from now on. That way, the creator can make the decision to upload with the full knowledge of what will happen.

Now we are left with the uncomfortable decision as to whether or not we should take all the videos down.

Capitalism doesn’t have to act badly. But it so often does.

With regards to the advertisements on this website, your scribe does not receive any money from WordPress.

Anyway, here is our Youtube channel:

3. Vladimir spoke about:

* the 0.75% US interest rate hike sparks across-the-board falls in global asset prices

*Characteristics of ASX-listed stocks whose profits could be likely to keep pace with inflation

*The suspension of the National Electricity Market and the causes of recent electricity shortages

*Why solar and wind energy cannot be viable without revolutionary improvements in energy storage technology

*UK government approves Julian Assange’s extradition to USA. Will the Albanese government make a genuine effort to return him to Australia?

*You cannot buy friendship or rely on the French government for protection: a critical commentary on media reports that Australia needlessly paid France hundreds of millions more than necessary as compensation for cancelling the submarine project.

*Hollywood myths concerning crime, law enforcement and self-defence: a Quora user shares his views

*A tribute to Australian actor Tommy Dysart, who died earlier this week aged 86. He is famous for starring in the classic Aussie “Goggomobil” TV ad promoting the Yellow Pages.

A critical commentary on the NSW government decision to introduce an extra year of education before kindergarten to every four-year-old by 2030, reported to cost $5.8 billion over 10 years.

4. One member of the audience insisted we all had souls. He was asked if the soul is in any way physical. He replied ‘no’. Then he was asked, if no part of the soul is physical, what keeps it accompanying the body when the body moves from one place to the other? And, if the soul is a person’s personality, what happens to the soul when the brain suffers major damage in an accident? And, if the soul is not a person’s personality, what is it? And would that not mean that when a person dies, their personality dies with the body, while the soul – not the person’s personality – goes into the afterlife? And wouldn’t that mean the person is as dead as the rest of us, even though their soul is in the afterlife?

All of these awkward questions were deftly parried.

Here are some ghostly stairs. Stairs also have an afterlife, it seems.

5. Do wealthy people deserve all their wealth because they earned it? Or were they advantaged in some way, with intelligence, parental support, the right school and the right contacts  . . .   and are therefore obligated to spread their wealth around? Views were mixed.


5. Other topics discussed:
– the bullies of Speakers’ Corner

– Are men more subject to violence than women? The contributors to this discussion were many, and statistics flew about like sparrows.

– If we have strong beliefs about the world such as ‘men only want one thing’ or ‘women are only after a man’s money’ should we look for articles, films, books, conversations etc. that confirm those beliefs, or should we stick metaphorical beeswax in our ears and avoid those things, and instead look for evidence that contradicts our beliefs?

– Is the grass greener on the other side of the fence? ‘No,’ said Mr B, ‘the grass is greener where we water it. If we want to get the best out of our relationships, jobs, etc. let’s not envy what another person has; rather, let’s “water” what we have to help it grow.’

– What makes you angry?  Traffic jams?  Disrespectful people?  “Nuh”, said Mr B. “Only one thing makes you angry.” Then he told us what it was.

– One grasshopper said evil people in the world’s banking system have wrecked the economy. Another grasshopper said our economy’s woes are due to inflation and rising interest rates. What do you think? Write down your opinion and post it to someone important.

– We went for a ‘bushwalk’ while seated in our chairs.

– Mr B explained why intelligent aliens have never and will never visit this planet. However, this meme seems to suggest otherwise:

6. Our Facebook page is popular with over 400 cultures around the world, including the Masai, the Taliban, Hillsong, and these guys:

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