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.

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’.
  Among other things, Mr Bashful talks about New Age scams,  happiness myths, and why we should burn the Mona Lisa. He has presented an Ockham’s Razor talk on Radio National.
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.

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 on the third Sunday of every month, 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 lad.


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 the Sunday passers-by, 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 and is a fervent atheist 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.
Tony now heckles the other speakers.

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.

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.

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.

Mark the Grinner (occasional speaker)


Mark regularly gets a hearty laugh from the crowd with his meticulously crafted questions. Plus, his serious comments are  insightful. His companion, Sue, is less vocal, but she has no trouble speaking her mind when she has something to say. Click here to hear why Mark 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.

Philip Feinstein

Philip occasionally speaks and is the founder of Music For Refugees. He also runs the Smokenders program, to help people give up smoking.


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 92, 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 11th March

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 12, 2018 at 6:32 am

Special notice: Mr B is in good health and will be at the Domain this coming Sunday 18th to provide chairs for the indolent.

“Broken and broken again on the sea,
the moon so easily mends.”

1. It was again a quiet day, but a beautiful one. We didn’t finish until nearly 6pm.

Steve Maxwell turned up late, bless him, after attending his friend’s 100th birthday. When Steve did get to speak he spoke about Australia’s dark and troubled past: the convict settlements, the mistreatment of the Aborigines, the World Wars . . .

. . . and then he presented another thought experiment: what would be the consequences of banning the iphone from the classroom?

2. We spoke about sledges in cricket.

Rod Marsh to Ian Botham: “So, how’s your wife and my kids?”
Botham: “The wife is fine but the kids are retarded.”

3. If you watched the video of John Webster on Youtube you would have discovered that he sold a newsletter to his listeners, for twenty cents. The industrious Steve Maxwell got his hand on a few copies and they’re now on this blog. Good work, Steve!

If you’d like to see all 25 pages, click here. Here is a sample below.

4. Another famous sledge:

Glenn McGrath to Eddo Brandes: “Why are you so fat?”
Eddo’s reply: “Because every time I make love to your wife she gives me a biscuit.”

5. Thank you to the person who sent in this striking look-a-like of Mr Bashful.

6. Another sledge:

Shane Warne: “I’ve been waiting two years for another chance to humiliate you.”
Daryll Cullinan: “It looks like you’ve spent it eating.”

7. Scientists in our “top” science organisation, the CSIRO, have become stamp collectors, said Mr B. Searching the deep ocean floor, researchers hauled up 42,747 poor, hapless fish, and discovered five new species. Now the staff can spend their lives and the taxpayer’s money cataloguing them. Mr B thinks that if they had just stuck to stamps then 42,747 fish could have remained on the sea floor alive and continued to mind their own business.

Mr B then sarcastically explained how the planet’s supposed environmental degradation is just a myth. After all, he explained, we are discovering more species than are becoming extinct, so we have a net increase in species. At this rate, we will soon be overrun with wildlife.

8. Another sledge:

Warne was trying to get a chubby batsman out. The wicketkeeper Ian Healy suggested to Warne, “Bowl a Mars Bar halfway down the pitch and I’ll stump him.”
Everyone laughed and the batsman replied, “Nah, David Boon will be onto it before I can move.”

9. Mark the Grinner responded to last week’s post in which it was revealed that Mr B’s offer to speak to the students at Sydney University had been rejected. Mark was scathing of the University’s censorious policies. He even drew on the Dark Ages and The Enlightenment to make his point.

Mark also spoke about the warnings you often find preceding television programs: “Viewers may be concerned by the following images.” Mark believes we shouldn’t receive such warnings; we need to harden up and accept reality. The world can be a horrible place and we need to accept that, not  hide from it. Mr B, sitting in the outer, objected. His objection was futile.

10. Another sledge:

Dennis Lillee to a batsman: “I can see why you are batting so badly. You’ve got some shit on the end of your bat.”
The batsman would look at the end of his bat.
Dennis: “Wrong end, mate.”

11. Uncle Pete ascended the Ladder of Knowledge to give us a vignette of a man called Henry Moseley. Henry was a brilliant man who furthered our understanding of sub-atomic particles. When World War I broke out he could easily have avoided conscription, but chose not to, arguing that if a coal miner was obliged to risk his life, then he himself should risk his. It has been said that he may well have won a Nobel Prize had he not been shot dead in Gallipoli.

Then, when we discussed the pay packets of CEOs, Uncle Pete was prompted to suggest that nurses should strike for much better pay, even though a few of us would die in the process. If they striked for long enough, the government would cave in.

12. Another sledge:

Merv Hughs to batsman: “You can’t fucking bat.”
The batsman hit the next ball for four runs and then replied: “Hey, Merv, we make a good pair! I can’t fucking bat and you can’t fucking bowl.”

13. A few weeks ago, Donald Trump suggested that teachers should be given guns in school. Mr B asked his grasshoppers to provide ten reasons why the idea is a stupid one. He received three reasons before the discussion became such a farce he changed the topic.

14. Another sledge:

In a Sheffield Shield match Steve Waugh was taking his time getting ready to face his first ball: taking guard, scratching out his mark, looking at the field settings. Jamie Siddons decided enough was enough and remarked: “For fuck’s sake, mate, it’s not a fucking test match!” To which Waugh replied: “Of course it’s not . . . You’re here.”

15. Other subjects discussed:
– Was the government doing the right thing when they “stole” Aboriginal children from their parents in the early 1900s? Or was it a shameful period in Australia’s history? Or both? Is it true that all but one of the claims for compensation have been denied, because government records indicate that the children were stolen for good reason? Or did the bureaucrats make up lies to justify their actions? Were most of the Aboriginal children given the opportunity to visit their parents from time to time, or was that a lie too? These, and other questions, made the discussin lively.

– According the ABC news, school principals are stressed and overworked. A study found that they are interupted 70 times a day. One grasshopper scoffed. She’s a Deputy Principal, and deputy principles are interrupted 170 times a day!

– In China, do some people hire Chinese strippers to attend funerals, in the hope of getting a higher turnout? Or is that fake news?

– Many companies don’t pay tax. Is that a good thing? Are the ways some companies avoid paying tax legitimate? Do they, by reinvesting their profits into research and development (and pay no tax as a result) ultimately benefit the nation because they grow in size and employ more people?

– What is hunger? Does the hunger of a well fed Australian differ from the hunger of someone used to eating one small meal a day? Is the Australian’s hunger laced with anxiety, because they’re not used to going hungry?

– Should GPs automatically take a patient’s blood pressure while the patient is explaining why they are there? Or is the onus on the patient to ask?

– Speaking of Nobel Prize winners, Mirko was “vigorous” today on the Ladder of Knowledge as he patiently explained complex matters that only a Nobel Prize winner could understand. For example, here are three of the more comprehensible lines of his flyer:
Static cloud discharge H2O1 Rain Lighting (sic) 
Sun’s U/V   I/R in water mist rise on Gravity
Also could discharge on land H2O1 Life.
This poor scribe struggles to understand Mirko’s deep message, though the recurring theme seems to be “MOTHER NATURE!’ It’s a shame that Mirko’s boundless knowledge is wasted on us, when he should be in a university lecturing.

Mother Nature

16. Another sledge:

Merv Hughes was giving the batsman, Graham Gooch, a hard time with his bowling. 
Merv: “Would you like me to bowl a piano and see if you can play that?”



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 4th March.

In News for Speakers' Corner on March 5, 2018 at 12:10 pm

“The music is not in the notes but in the silence in between.”

We discussed what might Mozart might have meant. The hapless Mr B read too much into it.

1. Today we had a plethora of speakers up on the Ladder of Knowledge: Mirko, Mark the Grinner, Philip Feinstein, Mr B, Helmut and Guy. Across the way was Steve maxwell, and by the kiosk, Ray.

Speakers all over the place.

But the crowds today were the smallest we have seen for some time. It was still an interesting day.


2. Steve Maxwell held a thought experiment, and it was so successful he held it all day with his passers-by. (A thought experiment is an imaginary scenario created in order to test a hypothesis through to its possible conclusions.) His experiment: what characteristics would the perfect politician have? His passers-by came up with a wide variety of answers, and each point-of-view had merit. And, points-of-view came from the far right to the centre, to the far left.

Steve was very satisfied about how his meeting went, and he will be doing more thought experiments in the future.

3. Mr B was asked about the state of free speech in universities. That pressed a button! He reminded us all of his “generous” offer to speak at Sydney University nearly three years ago and the reply he received: ‘Our stakeholders have advised that allowing you to conduct your event on University grounds is considered not in the best interests of staff and students.’

Presumably, the “stakeholders” were concerned that Mr B might incite violence and leave the university in rubble, or defame a litigious bounder and diminish the university’s coffers.

With his fury reignited, Mr B bellowed that a university’s job, and privilege, is to create a fertile environment for the students, because those students  need to think thoughts not yet thought if they are to be the doers of the future and create a world we don’t yet have. Students are humanity’s lifeline for a better world, he said, and administrators should expose their students to new ideas, not protect them from ideas. And from a soapbox speaker, for goodness sake?! Since when did a soapbox speaker become a dangerous subversive capable of corrupting minds? Since when was a student’s mind so fragile?

The “stakeholders” obviously don’t know Mr B very well. The man couldn’t corrupt a loaf of bread.

Perhaps the officials were concerned the students might be offended? But a university is the place to be offended. That’s where students need to learn to cope with offence, and harden up and deal with it, and decide for themselves what is offensive and what has merit.

And, it’s the university’s role to help each student develop a bullshit detector, to prepare them for a world seething with bullshit. Students need all the practise they can get sorting bullshit from the truth. However, if they are shielded from views perceived to be ‘not in the best interests of the staff and students’, how will they develop the confidence and grit to develop their bullshit detectors or their own fresh thinking? And then, from where will new and exciting ideas spring?

Shielding its students from ideas, wacky or otherwise, is not the way to go. 

To protect the students (and staff) from any speaker is to treat them like children. It demeans the students, it demeans the staff, it demeans the university.

It occurs to this scribe that if the administrators choose to protect the students from a simple soapbox speaker, in what other ways might they be hobbling their students’ development?

Mr B finally concluded his hissy fit and changed the subject.

4. One of the many good things about Speakers’ Corner is that people don’t hold grudges. Week to week passions are ignited and comments can be “blunt”. Ray, for example, is our fundamentalist Christian speaker, and instead of frothing at the mouth when his beliefs are challenged or insulted, he maintains his calm demeanour and remains approachable. Mr B can be insulting in his pathetic attempts to be witty, but his grasshoppers forgive him. Mirko berates his audience constantly (“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” and “Shut up!“) but we love him all the same. Some people get under Steve Maxwell’s skin all day long, but when those same pests visit the following week he welcomes them.

It’s a pleasure to be in an environment in which you can frankly state your opinion, create a tizz, and then everyone is happy again.

This video of Ray and Uncle Pete has had over 138,000 views. People have commented upon their earnest conversation, and one or two have correctly suggested that the two men would harbour no animosity after such an encounter. They might even have a beer together!

5. Thank you to the person who sent in this look-a-like of Tony. Much appreciated.

6. Philip Feinstein provided us with some good news: the Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, was very prompt in allowing Philip to send music instruments to the detainees on Nauru and Manus islands. (Philip is the founder of Music For Refugees.) The instruments have arrived in Nauru, and they’re on their way to Manus Island.

Philip also talked about the 501 visa. He thought it outrageous that a non-citizen, who has committed a crime and been given a 12 month jail sentence, can be deported after serving their time in jail.

7. We learned about the Syrrian fellow who was born blind. At 17 he obtained a student visa to the U.S.A. and arrived in Los Angeles with little money, no contacts, no sight, and unable to speak English. He found a park to sleep in for two months (not years, Mr B!), a gym to shower in, and a library in which he could learn English. In 2 months he could communicate! He found housing, and now, four years later, he speaks fluently and is flourishing. Extraordinary!

Have you ever wondered how blind people use a computer?

8. Other subjects discussed:
– Guy spoke in favour of Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs.

– We examined the other Ten Commandments, 11 to 20.

– We discussed a little more about Bruce Pascoe’s book, “Dark Emu”. What was Aboriginal life like?

– Mirko talked about “No brain pollution” and “no talk, no sense”. I think that’s what he talked about, anyway.

– Uncle Pete is wondering when someone will steal a hair from Barnaby Joyce and his son, and compare the DNA.

– Both Helmut and Mark the Grinner (separately) spoke on religion. Mark the Grinner asked if perhaps being religious is a form of mental illness. He quoted Robert Persig: “When one person suffers from a delusion it’s called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it’s called a religion.”

“Gran calavera eléctrica” by José Guadalupe Posada, Mexico

9. We are on Facebook for reasons unclear. We have an Archives site for no reason at all.

Indian Bull Frog


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