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 12th August

In News for Speakers' Corner on August 13, 2018 at 12:13 pm

“America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.”
David Letterman

1. Big changes. Mr B talked for a few minutes (about trees again!) and was interrupted twenty-seven times. Then, as planned, he stepped off the Ladder of Knowledge and was replaced by Mark the Grinner. Mr Grinner immediately began entertaining the crowd with his humour. He spoke easily and fluently on a wide range of unorthodox topics. He kept the crowd interested. Then he gave Mirko a go.

It’s a mistake he won’t be making again.

Yes, Mark the Grinner will be speaking again in the near future! That’s a good thing, because Mr Grinner is a very good speaker indeed.

Next week Maria will be up on the Ladder of Knowledge, and she will be just as good. Things are looking up for Speakers’ Corner.

2. Mr Grinner gave us a long list of topics to choose from. All of them sounded interesting. Someone wanted to know why he believed that people who want children should never be allowed to have them. He answered by pointing out that many people want children because:
a) they have been taught by society they want them.
b) they want their children to fulfil their own unfulfilled dreams.
c) it’s a way to gain status.
Mr Grinner said that when he becomes Emperor, no parent will be allowed to raise their biological child. Parents will only be allowed to raise children that aren’t theirs. If someone doesn’t agree to that, they will not be permitted to have a child. If someone doesn’t agree to have a baby of another colour, they will not be permitted to have a child. Emperor Grinner says people can have children for the right reasons only.

He was just getting started!

Mark the Grinner

3. Mark the Grinner’s other topics (before he lost the ladder to Mirko and Helmut) were:
– You are probably an asshole. Mark drew upon studies which discovered that when someone is given a significant advantage when competing with others, they don’t acknowledge that advantage when they win. Instead, they look down on their competitors and treat them badly.

– Be prepared to be offended. If you are offended by what someone says, use the incident to explore why. Engage with the other person instead of simply shutting them out. When you take offence it’s a flag to say there could be an interesting discussion that requires tolerance and sensitivity. If you allow yourself to be offended, you’re being juvenile, said Mr Grinner.

Young people are clueless. (You had to be there.)

You do not suffer from anxiety. (Why weren’t you there?!)

– The Messiah is not recognised.
This was this topic that had your scribe doubting the wisdom of Mr Grinner. Mr Grinner said that just over 2,000 years ago, baby Jesus was visited by three wise men bearing gifts. They had come to declare that the little fellow was the messiah. Mark the Grinner said he believed the messiah had returned to Earth sixty years ago, as promised, and had been born in Australia. However, because of Australia’s strict immigration laws, the three wise men couldn’t get in to visit the baby and declare he was the messiah. As a result, the messiah grew up unrecognised.

That’s when things got shaky. Mark the Grinner produced a photograph that does, admittedly, seem to suggest that the messiah is among us.

Still, this scribe has doubts. But just in case Mark the Grinner is on the money, this scribe will be treating Mr B with more respect from now on.

4. Speaking of Mr B: he, Mirko, Helmut, Ray and Steve Maxwell did their thing too. This scribe has no idea what they talked about. That’s not because they were unintelligible, though they may well have been; it was because your not-so-diligent scribe didn’t get around to listening to them.

Except for one instance: Mr B “moderated” a vigorous discussion on women’s rights and sexuality. Strong views were expressed, yet there was no animosity and no nastiness. Speakers’ Corner really is the place to discuss issues openly, and get things off your chest.

Oh, and Steve Maxwell is not just a speaker, he is an artist. Lately he has been bringing along his art, and discussing art in general.

5. This week our Unusual Animal Series presents to you the Chinese Water Deer, which has chosen to unsubscribe from our Facebook Page because it was offended by something Mark the Grinner said.




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 5th August

In News for Speakers' Corner on August 6, 2018 at 11:56 am

“Who are you?” I asked the watcher in my dreams.
“Who wants to know?” was the reply.

Paul Broks.

1. We had a weclome change in procedure today which worked for nearly everyone. Mr B left the main clutch of chairs and went to speak by the pathway, with no chairs. He soon found a handful of passers-by choosing to stand and listen. He tells me it was a wonderful afternoon, finishing at 5pm. His listeners contributed well to the discussions. Meanwhile, the circus of cockatoos he left behind managed well without him. Helmut chaired the meeting and they all appeared to be enjoying themselves. It was a win-win situation that bodes well for the future.

2. Steve Maxwell had three main topics today:
(1) The Black Wars in Tasmania. (The violent conflict between Aborigines and the British colonists.)
(2) He gave us tips on how we can argue against a Climate Change denier.
(3) He spoke about the Bughouse Debates in the U.S. which are still going strong.

3. A conundrum: Imagine there is a fatal disease that, if you have it, manifests when you turn 60 and kills you. One person in a million gets the disease randomly. There is no cure, but there is a blood test that will tell you if you have the disease. The accuracy of the blood test is 95%. You’re not yet 60 and you accidentally get tested for the disease. The blood test says you have the disease. The question is: should you be worried?

Ben the Whisperer got the answer right. Well done, Ben!

4. If there were a button that made humans the same colour, would you press it? The grasshoppers provided a variety of answers.

5. “Never read to the mob!” is a golden rule for speakers at Speakers’ Corner. Yet that is precisely what Mr B did today, for the first time. He read a short story written by Henry Lawson: ‘That There Dog of Mine’.

6. Mr B gave some unusual advice about how to make friends. This was in response to a question regarding the loneliness epidemic. The following photo was taken from the Postsecret website.

7. Other subjects discussed.
– After the ABC Television’s Media Watch program exposed how women’s magazines manufacture one photograph by combining two different photographs, and then writing lies based on that photograph, why do women continue to purchase womens’ magazines? Didn’t word spread like wildfire that the magazines are manufacturing outright lies? Why is womanhood continuing to support those magazines?

– Someone suggested that animals treated cruelly in factory farms don’t mind the awful conditions because they know nothing else. They don’t feel lousy because they are used to their life and don’t know any better. Mr B took umbrage with that point-of-view and provided an “evolutionary argument” to claim the contrary.

– How can we interpret a dream? It’s easier and more accurate than you think.

– What if we viewed people in the same way we view trees?

– Mr B gave two youngsters some tips on how to gain real financial security.

– There were reasons given as to why there should be no private schools allowed, except selective schools for the intellectually gifted.

– Mr B went on a diabtribe about the following sentence: “The pain was quite horrible.”

– Leadership. Who leads you?

– The little kiddies passing by were told “Eat your veggies!”

– From Mr B’s Law Reform series: A court makes a decision and the decision is invariably appealed. If the decision is reversed it means the first court got it wrong. Why isn’t that first court held accountable for getting it wrong? If the judge in the court wasn’t smart enough to come to the right decision, why were they given the case in the first place? In the U.S.A, four orphans (all under the age of 21) successfully sued a tobacco company and won US$700,000. The company appealed and the court reversed the decision. The kids had to give all the US700,000 back, plus interest, plus pay all the legal fees. To pay the $1m+ bill they had to sell the family home. Why can’t the law get it right the first time and prevent such pain?

8. The answer to the fatal disease question above: you wouldn’t need to be worried. Remember, only one person in a million gets the disease and the blood test is 95% accurate. That means if you were to test one million people, 5% of them would be given an incorrect test result. i.e. 50,000 people would be given the wrong answer. Virtually all of them would be told they have the disease when they don’t have it. So, if your blood test says you have the disease, there is approximately one chance in 50,000 that you actually have the disease. With such low odds, you wouldn’t need to worry.

9. In our Unusual Creatures Series this Fennec Fox from the Sahara might be the new logo for our Facebook page if something extraordinary and unforeseen happens.



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