Soapbox Speakers

Speakers’ Corner news.

In The News From Speakers' Corner. on September 15, 2013 at 4:13 am

For Sunday, December 14th.

A weird day in which Steve Maxwell and Helmut took turns standing on Mr Bashful’s box, while Mr Bashful spoke in the place where Helmut often talks, but on Tony’s ladder, who Tony borrows from Mr Bashful. All very confusing. Mirko added to the confusion by also taking a turn standing on Mr Bashful’s box, berating the hecklers who dared to contradict him. Meanwhile Ray, the fundamentalist Christian, calmly spent a long time talking with atheist Eddie, who  week after week seems intent on proving to Ray that Ray’s claims are fallacies. Week after week he fails to convince Ray. Does Eddie hope that one day Ray will see the light and announce, ‘Gosh, I think you’re right Eddie, there is no god after all. You have convinced me.’ Or does Eddie have another motive?

For previous posts go to ‘The Weekly Posts’ in the archives.

Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade.

Parramatta’s Domain Speakers’ Corner. Parramatta city is located 23 km from Sydney. It was founded by the British in 1788, the same year as Sydney.  Parramatta was the furthest navigable point inland, where a freshwater river flowed into a tidal bay. It was ideal for farming and a township grew up. Parramatta Park is the site of the Old Government House (Australia’s oldest surviving public building) and Domain. Parramatta was the capital of NSW until 1846. In 1870, the Parramatta Domain’s remaining 246 acres was proclaimed a municipal park and a management trust established. It was at this point that a speakers corner developed. Parramatta Park was a popular recreation ground where picnics, carnivals, exhibitions, cricket games and military parades were held. One popular activity was Speakers’ Corner. Soapbox orators addressed crowds in the Park on Sunday at the pavilion near the Rose Hill bowling greens, and also in front of Old Government house. In 1871, an incident occurred that was unique in Australian history and received world wide news coverage at the time. William Lorando Jones (1819-1893), a freethinker, was charged for the crime of blasphemy. From his platform in Parramatta Park, Mr. Jones said that the Old Testament Bible was not fit to be read by young ladies. He quoted the Bible in a solemn and earnest manner, chapter and verse to prove his point. Waiting in the audience was an aspiring young politician, Ninian Melville, Junior  (1846-1897).  Mr. Melville, an Orangeman and leader of a sabbatarian* and temperance movement, took Mr. Jones to court. After a sensational court case, Mr. Jones was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in Darlinghurst goal, and was fined 100 pounds. He was the only person in Australia to be successfully prosecuted for blasphemy.  The Jones incident began a long feud on Parramatta’s Speakers’ Corner between freethinkers and Christians. Their public debates attracted bemused crowds of around 1400 to 1500 people. On one particularly fraught Sunday afternoon the debate turned into a melee. While it was acknowledged that the behavior of the opponents of free speech was disgraceful, it was freethinkers who were charged with assault. The Park Trust addressed the situation by forbidding all orations in the Park on Sunday Afternoon. Two years later, in 1888, Sunday afternoon oratory in the Park had been re-established, but without the free thinkers. A temperance advocate, a Protectionist and the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army preached and the Salvation Army held a revival dance. Six months later the Park Trust approved a new by-law outlawing ‘unseemly scenes’ of crowds around the orators and restricting any assemblage in the park. Exemption was granted to religious events and groups.** There ended the regular Speakers’ Corner. It was not until World War I that political movements appeared in the Park. Military conscription referendum campaign meetings were held in October 1916. The Free Trade and Land Values League was also given permission in 1921 to hold meetings on Sunday, so long as they did not interfere with the Salvation Army’s band. In Parramatta, unlike the Sydney Domain, a regular Speakers’ Corner did not survive into the late 20th century. * Sabbatarians said there should be no activities on Sunday, other than church. ** Government House Parramatta 1788-2000 By Sue Rosen.  Parramatta Park.  Trust Minutes Book 8-December 1894. To see other episodes of Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade click here.

The speakers and hecklers!

In Speakers and hecklers. on September 15, 2013 at 4:12 am

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

2013 Speaker highlights.

Helmut 4 The speakers at Speakers’ Corner are not shy and retiring. Or well mannered, for that matter. Some people say they’re a little eccentric, and there might be a skerrick of merit in that point of view. Whatever the case, they’re an entertaining bunch. Click here to see highlights of them in action.

The Speakers and Hecklers.

Steve Maxwell, historian and political commentator.

Steve Maxwell In various personas, but always engaging, Steve talks about 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.

Helmut Cerncic, metaphysicist.

Helmut once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest. He knows a lot about metaphysics, (more than Arnold Schwartzenegger), and is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus. But his battles with hecklers are fun. Here are some highlights. For more videos of Helmut, go to the archives site and to his own site, ‘Is Science the New Religion?’.

Mirko Terzic, 21st Century inventor.


Mirko has created a phonetic alphabet to be used world-wide, and it’s better than Esperento. He has solved the problem of perpetual motion and has diagrams explaining how to get free unlimited energy from hydropower. Mirko knows how to think outside the square. Here are a few highlights of Mirko. For more videos of Mirko go to the archives site.

Ray, Christian.

Ray is concerned about your soul.

 Ray is passionate about spreading the word of God. He takes the task seriously but isn’t confronting. He is a gentle man willing to answer your questions. Here are a few highlights. For more videos of Ray, go the the archives site, the archives site.

Mr Bashful, epiphany specialist.

Mr B 2

Mr Bashful, the epiphany specialist.

Mr Bashful calls his listeners his ‘grasshoppers’. (“You have much to learn, Grasshopper.”) Among other things, Mr Bashful talks about New Age scams, happiness myths, and why we should burn the Mona Lisa. One thing he isn’t, is bashful.

Tony, atheist. (Speaker and  heckler)

Tony New-Zealander Tony is a fervent atheist and scathing of the Catholic Church. When he is not berating Christianity he is either sinking the boot into other religions, or supporting Palestine. In this video Tony expresses a few of his well considered opinions. For more videos of Tony click here.

Scott, heretic. (Occasional speaker)


Scott is a young man adept at independent thinking. Calm, thoughtful and considered, Scott likes to take commonly held views and turn them upside down – not for the sake of it, but because he seeks the truth.  Here are a few examples. For more videos of Scott go to the archives site.

Mitch: “All is consciousness” (Occasional speaker)

Mitch 2

Mitch claims everything is consciousness – even rocks and atoms. Mitch’s theory answers questions posed by Eastern religions, it resolves divine paradoxes, it addresses the mind/body problem and the free will problem, and it answers other philosophical dead-ends. Even acknowledging that everything is consciousness is a step towards Buddhist enlightenment, says Mitch, because we experience a different reality. For a glimpse of his theory click here. For a more detailed explanation go to the archives site.

 Jovo (occasional speaker)


 Jovo is a charismatic man, which may explain why he is also known as ‘Rasputin’ and ‘The Wild Man of Serbia’. Throughout the world he is envied by monks, yogis and gurus for his ability to tap into a stream of consciousness and verbalise it. 


Heckler highlights – 2013

A gleeful looking Peter about to cause trouble.

A gleeful looking Peter about to cause trouble.

Is it any wonder the speakers are a touch testy sometimes, with hecklers like these guys? Click here to see the heckler highlights for 2013.

Peter the heckler.

Peter - best

Peter, a Speakers’ Corner heckler, enjoys challenging the speakers’ claims. But he doesn’t always win the encounter. Click here for a few highlights. For more videos of Peter, go to the archives site.

Andrew, the exhibitionist. (Heckler.)

 Andrew used to be a speaker – he used to be the only flasher in the world prepared to stand up and talk about flashing, and support it. There are four entertaining videos of Andrew speaking.  Here is just one. For more videos of Andrew, go to the archives site. His award winning book about the subject is available on Amazon. But unfortunately for Speakers’ Corner, and for the public, and especially for the other speakers, he has become a heckler. He arrives at about 4.20pm and gives the speakers curry. If he is there, and you are there, you won’t miss him.

Arthur (Heckler)

 Arthur 1

Arthur is not what you call the shy type, and is generous with his opinion. I caught him searching for disciples.

David (heckler).

David is dead against any view supporting the existence of ghosts, telepathy, UFO’s, psychics, and any other new-age rubbish you might try to foist upon him, but when it comes to religion he is fervently agnostic. He leaves no stone unturned in his search for the truth.

John (Placid heckler.)

Philosopher, skeptic, atheist, and all around good guy, John makes his way to Speakers’ Corner just often enough to get a mention here.

Jack (Quiet observer)


“The old grey owl sat on an oak. The more he heard, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Now, wasn’t he a wise old bird?”

Click here to hear a few words from Jack.

Kevin (visitor)

Kevin Kevin speaks out against forced medication with psychotropic drugs.



This column is for you, the passer-by!

In For the passers-by. on September 15, 2013 at 4:08 am

At Speakers’ Corner all passers-by are invited to step up onto The Ladder of Knowledge and speak, and become a part of Speaker Corner history. The brave souls who take the opportunity are a diverse lot, and enrich Speakers’ Corner considerably. 

How about you? Will you stand on The Ladder of Knowledge and tell us what you think?

 Click here to see the 2012 highlights.
(To see the full videos click here.)


   Click here to see the 2013 highlights.
(To see the full videos click here.)





Aaron has some insightful ideas about the value of the Arts. Click here to hear him speak.

Tea anyone?

Tea ceremony

These two have just been to a Japanese Tea Ceremony in the Botanic Gardens. Click here.

A Scotsman speaks.


This Scottish fellow talked politics, and won a few votes. Click here to hear him speak.



Eliot spoke about population, and was positive about the future. Click here to hear him.

John August

John August 3

Today John talks about abiogenesis (the origin of life). Click here.



Ali, from Lebanon, has a few words to say about the problems of democracy. Click here.

John August

John August 2

John has a few thoughts about Israel and Palestine. Click here.



Tony has a few words of advice for the passers-by. Click here.



Click here to hear Jaiya talk about her school project.



This young fellow wanted to talk about the environment, but it was a hard job with Mr Bashful and an old geezer asking questions, and with his sister Jaiya assisting in the background. Click here.



Up from Melbourne, Rosali chose to philosophical. Click here.



Click here to learn why dancing should be an Olympic sport.



Who knows what this guy said? But he said it well!

You can’t find the staff!


In the first few seconds of his speech on The Ladder of Knowledge, this brave fellow had to suffer Tony’s interjections. Tony seems to think any speaker is fair game – age and inexperience aren’t factors to take into account. One wonders: if a sparrow perched on the Ladder of Knoweldge, would Tony heckle it in a battle of wits? Who knows? Though one thing is for sure: the sparrow would win. Click here.


John August

John stood on The Ladder of Knowledge to talk about coal as a source of energy, and other stuff.  Click here to see what he said. He has opinions on all sorts of things. Here is his site.

The hug man.

The hug man

Mr Bashful was one of the lucky ones to get a hug from this warm fellow. Click  here.

A protestor.


This hirsute gentleman was protesting outside the gallery. I asked him why.



This passer-by delivered a few epiphanies of her own, but we can’t reveal what she said, and there is a clue in this excerpt to suggest why.



The wind was a nuisance, and Mirko more-so, but Poppy still managed to represent the charity, Plan International, with gusto. It was her day off, but you can see where her passion lies. Click here.



With a strong New Zealand accent, Jacob praised which country? Click here to find out.



Steve, a regular but silent visitor, explained why it was unjust and unacceptable to solely blame Japan and Germany for World War II. Click here.

J.S.T. (Jessica)

JST Jessica

There is more wisdom in this passer-by than in all of the hecklers combined. Click here.

Little French Girl.

Little girl

Despite her reluctance to speak it is easy to see this little girl is delightful. Click here.

Janet, of the Australian Heritage Dancers.

Janet best

Click here to meet a delightful young maiden from the Australian Heritage Dancers.

The atheist God? God of himself?


Brendon was understandably reluctant to get up onto the Ladder of Knowledge and speak, but his girlfriend Dana wanted him to. So, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.  He got up and did a good job. Click here.

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