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

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 he has spoken at Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner for yonks. We are fortunate to have him.

In various personas, but always engaging, Steve talks about religion, Australian history and politics. Click here for highlights. 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.

To see more of Steve click here.


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 this blog’s scribe, but 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 22nd January, 2023

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2023 at 8:24 am

Mr Bashful has occasionally talked about last century’s Melbourne strong-man Paul Anderson, whose stage name was The Mighty Apollo. Paul:
– Carried a horse up a ladder when he was 15 years old
– Had an 8 ton elephant stand on him while he lay on a bed of nails
– Pulled a tram packed with people (35 tons) up the Flinders Street hill for about 60 metres.

Your scribe challenges Steve Maxwell, Mr B and Vladimir to perform one of those feats.

1. Speakers’ Corner was washed out today, but we do have news! Journalist Patrick Whiteley has written an article about Speakers’ Corner for the Royal Botanic Garden’s website. Here it is:’-corner-in

What do you think?

2. Our Facebook page was left out in the rain and it’s soggy. But read what you can.

The News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 15th January, 2023

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2023 at 9:13 am

 ‘Some people . . . lack the flexibility to notice that as they move in the direction of their goals, there are better, more worthy goals all around them.’
Anthony Robbins, from his book, ‘Awaken the Giant Within’.

1. It was a quiet but steady day. Antony came again, as promised, and gave us all plenty of Hallelujahs.

2. We now know why the crowds
have been small at Speakers’ Corner. Last week Vladimir told us about ChatGPT, a form of artificial intelligence that creates stories or writes articles, sourcing its information from the internet. The answers are normally impressive, but when your scribe asked it this question the result was dismal.

“Tell me about Speakers’ Corner, Sydney.”

In seconds it had replied with:

Speakers’ Corner is a public space located in the Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia where members of the public can voice their opinions and ideas on any topic. The area is also known as the “Free Speech Forum” and has a long history of public speaking and activism. It is located near the Archibald Fountain in the park. The space is open to all members of the public and there are no restrictions on the type of speech that can be given, however, police are present to ensure that the speeches remain peaceful and do not incite violence.

There you go! The speakers have been going to the wrong place! They should have been setting up in Hyde Park (a kilometre away) where each week the crowds and the police are waiting for them.

3. Vladimir spoke about the following topics:

1. The failed attempt to destroy the political career of NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet

At a press conference on 12th Jan, Perrottet apologised for wearing a Nazi costume to his 21st birthday 20 years ago. It was understood that he went public to preempt others in his party leaking this story to the media.

Perrottet also approached representatives of the Jewish community who readily accepted his apology and acknowledged his support of the Jewish community throughout his time in public life, understanding that the event in question happened a long time ago when he was a young man and that he is remorseful and deserves forgiveness.

Vladimir, who is part of the Jewish community, noted that most people he knew had a subdued reaction to this news. He said that the community was not naive and could clearly recognise this political muckraking for what it was and how it was opportunistically timed to influence the upcoming NSW state election, so did not ‘take the bait’.

Vladimir condemned those who would attempt to manipulate and exploit the feelings of the Jewish community to use as a political weapon. He also condemned the ABC for its sensationalist media coverage, refuting an article that claimed “the Jewish community is reeling” over this revelation.

Vladimir stressed that it is important for Australians to be made aware of the dirty ways in which political opportunists try to subvert our democracy.

Vladimir also discussed speculation in the media that this incident might have been linked to retiring Transport and Veterans Minister David Elliott, who opposes Perrottet’s policy to introduce a cashless gambling card that would reduce problem gambling. It is reported that Elliott is a former executive at the NSW Australian Hotels Association and has a son who works for gambling technology giant Aristocrat.

2. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet proposes cashless gambling cards with $1500 daily spending limit, opposed by Transport and Veterans Minister David Elliott

3. Online survey of 1981 people reveals most highly-rated nootropics (mental performance enhancing drugs) to be ADHD medicines Dexamphetamine and Ritalin, but weightlifting and high-intensity cardio exercise were rated as having similar effectiveness

(Nuh. Not for me, your scribe. After weightlifting and high-intensity cardio I just feel exhausted.)

4. Cinnabon – the American baked goods chain popularised by TV shows Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul – opens in Sydney

Vladimir compared Cinnabon to established chain Krispy Kreme, expresses his surprise and disappointment at the public demand for highly unhealthy high sugar, high fat food products.

He also noted his surprise at the popularity of certain new burger chains whose burgers seems indistinguishable from any other burger already available on the market.

5. US nuclear technology company Holtec International has applied for a patent for multi-stage compressors that would enable any coal-fired plant to be repurposed by replacing its coal-fired boiler a SMR-160 small modular reactor.

A study published by the US Department of Energy found that hundreds of coal power plant sites across the USA could be converted to nuclear plant sites, providing huge decarbonisation gains as well as bringing tangible economic, employment and environmental benefits to the communities where those plants are located.

Vladimir suggested that this technology could potentially be useful in repurposing Australia’s coal power plant sites.

5. Vladimir discusses the ethics of owning shares in companies who do things that you find objectionable.

He discussed with the audience the different impacts of:

*Boycotting a company’s goods & services
*Refusing to provide a company with goods & services
*Refusing to buy their shares

6. The pitfalls of international trade: American woman living in Australia complains of the exorbitant cost of seafood compared to the price she would pay in her previous home city Boston.

Vladimir said the woman has a point. He noted that most Australian rock lobsters are exported overseas to buyers who are prepared to pay high prices.

Vladimir noted that in a free market, for any good for which there is extremely strong export demand, local consumers will inevitably be price-gouged.

7. “Why I’ve pulled the plug on my electric car” – reporter Giles Coren recounts his struggles with his vehicle.

Vladimir notes that there is no reward for being an early adopter of electric vehicles apart from feeling smug and being able to show off.

8. Australian universities to return to ‘pen and paper’ exams after students caught using AI to write essays

9. On Reddit, a university student in the UK asked the community for advice after claiming to be facing an academic misconduct committee as a result of using ChatGPT to help write a 4000-word assignment

A clever person decided to ‘fight fire with fire’ by using ChatGPT to come up with a defence for the accused student to present to the misconduct committee:

10. Vladimir recounts his recent struggles with ChatGPT – trying to make a new version of Dire Strait’s classic hit “Money For Nothing” that satirises crypto entrepreneurs, only to get into an argument with the AI over a pejorative word beginning with ‘f’ that featured in the original lyrics.

11. McDonald’s Australia removes Diet Coke from its menus permanently

Vladimir expresses his personal dislike of Diet Coke and explains the causes of its inferior taste compared to Coke No Sugar.

12. Sun Cable collapses after dispute between billionaire investors Andrew Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brookes

Vladimir considered this solar electricity generation project to be ludicrous, highlighting the extreme cost and impracticality of building a 4,200-kilometre-long subsea power cable to Singapore and the associated maintenance.

Vladimir noted that the Basslink HVDC cable that connects Victoria to Tasmania is only 370km long and experienced a 6-month outage following a cable fault that occurred on 20th December 2015, located 100km off the coast of Tasmania, that was difficult and expensive to repair.

13. Two months after Andrew Thorburn’s forced removal as CEO of Essendon Football Club following just one day in the job, the parties have reached a settlement, with an apology and joint statement released by the Club and Mr Thorburn on 20 December 2022.

“The Club and Mr Thorburn are pleased to announce that the dispute between them has been resolved. A critical element of this resolution is to enable a wider community conversation on the importance of freedom of conscience, religion and belief and how to have respectful dialogue between people with different views and perspectives.”

“The club acknowledges that the events of October [Thorburn’s forced removal] should have been handled better and apologises for the impact it had on Mr Thorburn, his family and others.”

14. Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, dies aged of 54 after being placed in an induced coma following a cardiac arrest.

15. Irish-American dancer Michael Flatley, 64, famous for starring in internationally-acclaimed Irish dance productions Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, reveals he is fighting an ‘aggressive’ form of cancer and has undergone surgery:

16. Happy birthday to the following celebrities:

*American singer songwriter Pat Benatar, famous for her 1983 worldwide chart-topping hit “Love is a battlefield”, turns 70
*English musician Jimmy Page, cofounder and lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin, turns 79
*English actor, comedian and writer Rowan Atkinson, turns 68.

17. Cardinal George Pell dead at 81 after hip surgery complications

Audience members shared strong views about his legacy, mainly regarding his handling of child sexual abuse cases by clergy while Archbishop, and whether justice was done during his own criminal trial.

Cardinal Pell was not the only one to have hip surgery complications:

4. Other topics discussed:

– Should the NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet, be forgiven for wearing a Nazi uniform on his 21st birthday fancy dress party, twenty years ago?

– is the known universe nearly 28 billion light years in diameter, or nearly 96? Helmut and Mr B battled it out.

– Should adults get back into the habit of asking questions of life?

– Is asking a woman to take responsibility for her actions ‘blaming the victim’?

– Is it just a coincidence that the world’s two biggest fund managers, Cardinal George Pell and retired Pope Benedict, died within two weeks of each other? (Thank you, Angry Peter!)

– Was the law fair when it led to the acquittal of George Pell and O.J. Simpson? Should we follow the law for want of something better?

– The Just World Hypothesis

– The Socratic style of questioning, in order to fully understand a matter.

5. Although our Facebook page has over 1,000 subscribers, last week only 139 subscribers received just one of the nine posts! What is the point of us having subscribers, Facebook? Honestly?






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