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.

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.

Click here to see their 2015 highlights.
Click here to see their 2014 highlights.
Click here to see their 2013 highlights.

Find past posts  on our Archives site.

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The Speakers and Hecklers.

Steve Maxwell, historian and political commentator.

Steve Maxwell

Steve Maxwell, legend.

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.

Helmut Cerncic, metaphysicist.

Helmut 4

Helmut used to be a professional wrestler going by the name of Helmut Rommel. He took on the likes of Killer Karl Kox, Mario Milano and Spiros Orion. And, he once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest.
More importantly, Helmut knows a lot about metaphysics (more than Arnold Schwartzenegger and Killer Karl Kox combined), and he is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus.
His battles with hecklers are fun. He 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?’.

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 to the archives site.

Mark the Grinner.

As a heckler, Mark regularly gets a hearty laugh from the crowd with his meticulously crafted questions. As a speaker his humour is still there, but his talks have substance. He comments on human behaviour and attitudes, and he doesn’t hold back.

Click here to hear why Mark comes to Speakers’ Corner.

His companion, Sue, is less vocal, but she has no trouble speaking her mind when she has something to say.

Mr Bashful, epiphany specialist.

Epiphany specialist Mr Bashful tells us he is the spiritual advisor to the Dalai Lama, though that’s yet to be verified. He calls his listeners his ‘grasshoppers’ and his foes ‘garden gnomes’.
  Mr Bashful’s favourite topic is his evolutionary approach to happiness and resilience, but he ends up talking about almost anything else.  He has presented an Ockham’s Razor talk on ABC Radio National and believes we should burn the Mona Lisa.

One thing he isn’t, is bashful.

To learn more about him and see videos of him in action, click here.

He now has a Facebook page but rarely contributes to it.

John August (Occasional speaker)

John speaks earnestly on a wide range of subjects, and if you’re in Sydney you can listen to his radio program 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.


Uncle Pete (heckler and occasional speaker)

Peter - best

During the week Uncle Pete teaches students, and if he teaches them with the same verve he has for Speakers’ Corner, they are lucky students indeed. Click here for a few highlights. For more videos of Uncle Pete, go to the archives site.

Tony, atheist.

New-Zealand born Tony used to be a speaker but now he heckles the other speakers.  In this video  Tony expresses a few of his well considered opinions. For more videos of Tony click here.

Max (Quiet listener)

Max is one of the gentler regular visitors. Says little, but when he does speak, it’s sensible. Click here to discover why he visits Speakers’ Corner.

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.

Peter the Younger


The well-read Peter knows an awful lot about many subjects, and in particular: geo-politics and U.S. shenanigans.  Click here to hear why Pete comes to Speakers’ Corner.


Howard is always polite and reasonable, yet despite that he fits in well at Speakers’ Corner. His contributions are appreciated by all. Click here to hear why he comes to Speakers’ Corner.

Ben the Whisperer

Although Ben is softly spoken, when he does speak, people listen. Click here to hear why he likes Speakers’ Corner.


Click here to hear why Kieron likes Speakers’ Corner.


Jean 2

Jean tries so hard to be feisty, but she’s just a big softie. Click here to hear why she comes to Speakers’ Corner.
Her husband Albert is below. Both of them are excellent value at Speakers’ Corner.


Albert 3

Albert may be 94, but he is as alert as anyone, and fit. When he helps Mr B unload the chairs he carries six at a time.
Albert wrote an absorbing book titled, ‘Civilisation Hijacked’. It explains how good men are persuaded to do bad things.

If  you would like to buy a copy ($20) email Albert:
Albert is the husband of Jean.


News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 14th July.

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 15, 2019 at 9:15 am

“Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face.”
Oscar Wilde, before social media and trolling came along.

1. It was bitterly cold for much of the day and it was a marvel that Mr B turned up with his bronchitis, now downgraded more realistically to a chest cold. Mind you, Mr B says his cold would have killed most men, so thanks for coming today, Mr B. Or, more accurately, thanks for bringing the chairs.

There had been a rumour that part-time actor Steve Maxwell had been overseas auditioning to be the next James Bond, but it turns out he really was having an eye operation. He was back today wearing protective shades. Welcome back, Steve!

“The man who wants big family tree needs many roots,” said Helmut, quoting Confucious and ignoring Mr B’s ban on wordplay. Helmut took enquiries about the origin of the universe, and somehow or other Sir Isaac Newton became involved in the discussion. What a poor specimen of a man Sir Isaac Newton was! Thanks, Helmut, for smashing our preconceptions and bringing us back to reality.

“Steve’s future is so bright he has to wear shades.” (Apologies to Patrick Lee MacDonald.)

2. Peter the Younger read to us the following figures:
The European Union has 468 coal-fired power plants and they intend to build 27 more.
Turkey has 56 plants and they’re planning to build 93 more.
South Africa: 79, & plan to build 24 more.
India has 589 and plan 446 more.
The Philippines has 19 and plan 60 more.
South Korea has 58 and plan 26 more
Japan has 90 and plan 45 more.
China has 2,363, and plan 1171 more.

Peter’s point? Australia is planning to shut their remaining 6 plants and save the planet!!

Peter says we in Australia have made some foolish decisions.

Peter also claimed that Adolf Hitler was a socialist, and gave his reasons why.

His stint was entertaining!

3. Mr B is rewriting his book on resilience in a different format, and has asked (begged) your scribe to include a chapter in the weekly post. He’d like feedback from his grasshoppers about the new format.

Given that his “book” is Speakers’ Corner related (resilience is his main subject, after all) your scribe reluctantly accedes to his request.

It’s a book intended for young people. If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.


4. Can an unemployed person survive on the Newstart Allowance (unemployment benefits)? Your scribe decided to find out.  Click here.

5. This week’s unusual critter in the Unusual Critter Series is the praying mantis, but IT IS NOT a close relation to the mantis shrimp, which is also an unusual critter. Here is a bunch of reasons why the mantis shrimp is one weird critter. Both critters should check out our Facebook page.

Praying mantis

Mantis shrimp (no relation)










Can someone live on unemployment benefits?

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 15, 2019 at 9:05 am

Mr B recently suggested that an unemployed person should be able to comfortably live on the Newstart Allowance (the unemployed benefits payment from the federal government), because the recipient would also receive rental assistance, a mobility (transport) allowance, and an energy allowance.

Your diligent scribe decided to fact-check Mr Bashful’s claim.

There are different situations in which a person may become elligible for unemployment benefits. For example:
(A) those who have saved their money and have a financial buffer, and have become unemployed.
(B) those who have not saved their money and have no financial buffer, and have became unemployed.
(C) Other.

This article looks at the position of someone in category (B): “Can a single unemployed person over the age of 22 – without having saved a financial buffer – live a good life and seek work on unemployment benefits?


The current Newstart Allowance benefits are:
(source: Aust govt)

A single person receives $555.70 per fortnight.

Plus rental assistance:

A room in Sydney will always be at least $305.33 a fortnight, so the fortnightly payment from the government will be $137.20.

Plus Mobility Allowance: 

A single person on the Newstart allowance and looking for work will receive $97.90 a fortnight.

Plus Energy allowance

Total income for a single person, per fortnight:
$555.70  Newstart allowance
$137.20  Rental assistance
$97.90 Mobility allowance.
$7.90 energy allowance.

Therefore, $798.70 is the total income received per fortnight by our single person.

The Newstart allowance is to provide a person with a decent standard of living and the support they need in their endeavours to find a job. The taxpayer should not be obliged to fund a Newstart recipient’s:
– take-away food
– restaurant meals
– cigarettes
– alcohol
– recreational drugs
– gambling
– newspapers
– bottled water & soft drinks
– tea & coffee


A person could find on  a room in a shared house in Sydney for $200 per week. However, Kim has poor social skills and no one will live with her. Kim needs to have her own room, so she rents a room in a boarding house and pays $225 per week. Kim is paying $450 rent per fortnight.

Let’s assume Kim lives in an outer suburb, Merrylands, and has at least one job interview EVERY DAY in Sydney’s CBD. That’s 5 return train fares every weekday at $7.20  = $72.00 per fortnight.

Gas and electricity.
The socialite Mr B lives alone in a big house. He tells me that using arithmetic and his last four electricity and gas bills, he has determined that per fortnight, his cost of electricity is $28.08 and gas is $19.48.

Total energy costs: $47.56 per fortnight.
(Water? In most instances when someone is paying rent, the water bill is paid by the landlord.)

Telephone and internet:
Internet: all libraries in the Sydney greater area provide free internet access. There an unemployed person can send and receive emails from prospective employers, as well as hunt for jobs. Cost: $0.

Telephone (to speak with prospective employers): $10 per month for a cheap phone plan. That’s $5 per fortnight.

An unemployed person will need smart clothes for job interviews, and quality goods can be found in op shops. (Mr B found a quality suit on his first attempt for $20.) However, if a person presents proof they are on unemployment benefits, they can receive clothes & shoes for free (and presumably, blankets.)
Socks, underpants and singlets need to be bought, let’s say at a generous average cost of $8 per fortnight.

For job interviews the applicant needs a presentable haircut. A woman told Mr B that generally a friend can cut a basic hair cut. And, there are Youtube videos showing how it can be done. However, this claim will be rubbished, so let’s include the cost of a professional haircut: Men’s haircuts: 8 a year at $12 each. That’s $4 a fortnight. Women’s haircuts:
a) Some hairdressing schools will have their apprentices cut a woman’s hair for $25. However, results aren’t guaranteed.
b) The firm, ‘Just Cuts’ will cut a woman’s hair for $32. At six times per year that’s roughly $240 per year. That’s less than $8 per fortnight. Hair dye, six times per year will cost $10 each time. That’s $60 a year or  just over $2 per fortnight.

$8 + $2 = $10 is the average cost per fortnight Kim will pay. (Men: about $4.)

Most shared houses have washing machines, and most apartment blocks have communal washing machines and driers, that cost $2 per wash and $2 for the dryer. But let’s assume Kim has to use a laundromat to wash and dry her clothes. Twice a fortnight will cost her $18 per fortnight.

Unnecessary items:
– toothpaste (the brushing cleans your teeth, not the lather)
– laundry detergent. It’s the washing machine’s surging water that rids your clothes of sweat, etc., not the detergent. If you have an item with grime on it, hand wash the affected areas first with a bar of soap. Mr B hasn’t used laundry detergent for eight years.
– lipstick, perfume and eye liner.
– tampons. (Mr B was informed by a woman that a reusable handkerchief is just as good as a tampon.)

Cost: $0 per week.

– The chemist informed Mr B that an unemployed person will pay a maximum of $390 per year for prescribed medicines. Let’s say Kim has medical issues and will spend the entire $390 each year. She will be paying on average $19 per week.

Necessary items:
– bars of soap:
– toilet paper   (a handy hint to save money: use both sides)*
– toothpicks or dental floss:
– contraception:
– washing-up liquid:
– other stuff I’ve forgotten.

Total fortnightly cost: Generous estimate: $10

* 🙂

It’s commonly said that people on the Newstart allowance cannot afford fresh food. Here are some examples of the prices of bought meals:

So, a cheap meal can be bought for $5 or $6.

Mr B said anyone suggesting that bought meals are cheaper than fresh food is, at best, mistaken. I asked Mr B to put his money where his mouth is. (He agreed to do so, but first had to remove his foot.) For a week he meticulously recorded the cost of the food he ate, and took photographs for proof. Here we go:

Note: Instead of expensive wine, Mr B uses a cheap wine substitute for most of his meals. Although it’s often included in the photographs, the cost is not included because it’s negligible, and because an unemployed person does not need to purchase alcoholic beverages in order to survive.

Breakfast: Two bowls of cereal, (Freedom’s ‘Buckwheat & Quinoa Active Balance) with oat milk.
Cost: $2.40 for both bowls.

Morning snack: banana.
Cost: 36 cents.

Lunch:  two free-range eggs (91 cents each), tomato, avocado on grain & seed toast.
Cost: $2.48

Dinner: 1/3 rump steak fried with mushrooms & onions, plus three vegetables.
Cost: $6.41

Total cost for Monday: $11.45


Breakfast: Free range eggs, tomatoes, chilli, on grain & seed bread.
Cost: $2.73

Lunch: Two bananas on grain & seed bread plus one mandarin.
Cost: $1.06

Dinner: 1/3 rump steak with eight vegetables.
Cost: $8.28

Total cost for Tuesday: $12.07


Breakfast: Two bowls of cereal, (Freedom’s ‘Buckwheat & Quinoa Active Balance) with oat milk. Plus apple.
Cost: $2.40 plus:

Lunch: two bananas on grain & seed bread.
Cost: $1.00

Dinner: 1/3 rump steak with eight vegetables.
Cost: $7.42

Total cost for Wednesday: $10.82


Breakfast: Two free-range eggs, two tomatoes, chilli on grain & seed bread.
Cost: $2.43

Lunch: Avocado on grain & seed bread. Plus one banana.
Cost: $1.10

Dinner: Stir-fry on rice: 1/2 salmon, beans, broccolli, carrot, beetroot, capsicum, mushroom.
Cost: $6.40


Total cost for Thursday: $9.93


Breakfast: Two eggs on grain & seed bread toast with Jarlsburg cheese.
Cost: $2.78

Lunch: Salad with canned tuna, lettuce, capsicum, tomato, garlic & dressing
Cost: $5.34


Afternoon snack: Four banana smoothies. (3 bananas, oat milk, vanilla essence)
Cost: $2.63

Dinner: Stir-fry on rice: 1/2 salmon, beans, broccolli, carrot, beetroot, capsicum, mushroom.
Cost: $6.40


Total cost for Friday: $17.15


Breakfast: Apple, plus Two bowls of cereal, (Freedom’s ‘Buckwheat & Quinoa Active Balance) with oat milk.
Cost: $2.80 for both bowls.

Lunch: Toasted turkish bread sandwich with margarine, tomato, onion, Jarlsburg cheese, an egg, chilli, avocado & lettuce.
Cost: $3.53


Dinner: Borscht. (gravybeef, beetroot, celery,
Cost: $3.87


Total cost for Saturday: $10.20


Cost: $3.53


Morning snack: 3 mandarins
Cost: 54 cents

Lunch: Toasted turkish bread sandwich with margarine, tomato, onion, Jarlsburg cheese, an egg, chilli, avocado & lettuce.
Cost: $3.53


Dinner: Canned pilchards with tomatoes, onion & garlic on rice.
Cost: $2.24


Dessert: home made coconut pie.
Cost: $1.05

Total cost for Sunday: $10.89

Monday:        11.45
Tuesday:        12.07
Wednesday:   10.82
Thursday:         9.93
Friday:             17.15
Saturday:        10.20
Sunday:           10.89

Total food expenses for one week: $82.51   Therefore: per fortnight: $165.02

450.00  rent
72.00  travel
47.56  gas & electricity
5.00 phone
8.00 clothes
10.00 haircuts
18.00 laundromat
19.00  medicines
10.00 other
165.02 food
Given that the total income is $798.70, and that total expenses are $804.58  that means the unemployed Kim is $6.88 short, which means Mr Bashful doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about!


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