FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Axiomatic Events director, Dave Pellowe, has sent Victoria Police a letter explaining why he is refusing to pay the invoice for $67,842.50 they sent Axiomatic for police services outside the Lauren Southern & Stefan Molyneux Live event in Melbourne on 20 July.
The letter from Axiomatic's solicitor highlights concerns that, despite the skill and bravery of police on the ground in dealing with the violent behaviour of extremist individuals and organisations like Antifa, the government appears to blame the victim. Such a penalty gives the appearance of enabling the Thugs' Veto, adding to the injuries extremists can inflict by inciting such protests.
Mr Pellowe is concerned that simply paying the crippling bill would create a precedent by which other event organisers around Australia will change or even cancel their plans to hold political events which might attract the unwanted attention of extremists, and subsequently an enormous bill from law enforcement.
"The Andrews government has the gall to call this 'user pays' policing, but the reality is that it's victim-blaming. Our event was a normal sized crowd in a venue that routinely hosts such crowds. We broke no laws and went above and beyond to cooperate with police, and greatly appreciate the work they do. But if Police Minister Lisa Neville is looking for creative ways to fundraise for Victoria Police she can keep looking. The fair and just way to go about it would be to issue a $1,000 fine to every thug who blocked the highway, who abused & intimidated the mums, dads and kids who came along, who damaged private property and turned Melbourne into a Berkeley war zone. Sending us the bill for their lawlessness appears to be simply enabling the Thugs' Veto."
Axiomatic's letter to Victoria Police further explains that their legal advice has been that if the Andrews government wanted to pursue the matter in Courts they would likely lose because the invoice radically undermines the practical exercise of common law rights and freedoms. The letter states, "The imposition of fees for the performance of essential police purposes is unlawful," and quotes the Victoria Police Act (2013).
"The role of Victoria Police is to serve the Victorian Community and uphold the law so as to promote a safe, secure and orderly society."
Mr Pellowe stated that not only is there at least one YouTube video of an extremist boasting of his contributions to the behaviour that saw Victoria Police invoice Axiomatic for keeping the peace and recruiting others to do the same in Brisbane, but that he's already been informed of other political groups changing their plans to specifically avoid a "$68,000 police bill".
"The effect this has on important public debates is devastating. We cannot let this stand. I implore Premier Daniel Andrews and Police Minister Lisa Neville to commit to upholding the peace at future political events without blaming the victims and to reconsider the comfort they're inadvertently lending to the Thugs' Veto."
To sign the petition and donate to the legal fighting fund, please visit FreeSpeechCoalition.info.
"I write in respect of issues arising from the proffering to Axiomatic Media Pty Ltd (“Axiomatic”) of a proposed costing for police services.
As you know, police officers were deployed on 20th July 2018 at Broadmeadows and at Somerton in response to the violent conduct of members of the CARF and YARD groups at each of those locations. I understand that CARF and YARD are sub groups and/or affiliates of Antifa. I am advised that these groups are well known to the North West Metro Specialist Operations and to Counter-Terrorism Command. The behaviour of members of the CARF and YARD groups at both locations on 20th July 2018 mirrored their behaviour at previous events in that they seek to prevent persons with whom they do not agree from speaking at public venues or from hearing other persons speak at such venues.
On the occasions in question on 20th July 2018, property damage was inflicted by CARF and YARD members. I am told that CARF and YARD members spat, screamed and uttered abuse at the men and women boarding and alighting from the buses taking them to an event arranged by Axiomatic (“the event”). I am informed that a number of male members of the CARF and YARD groups displayed their genitals to people boarding and alighting the buses.
The members of Victoria Police who were in attendance displayed great fortitude, skill and forbearance in dealing with the conduct of the members of the CARF and YARD groups at both locations. The representatives of Axiomatic and the members of the public who attended the event are sincerely grateful for the police presence on that day. Axiomatic however, advise that they consider it very strange that only one arrest was made on the night and it is suspected that this particular outcome was a function of decisions made by persons other than those on site.
Your letter of 17th July 2018 enclosed an agreement that you wished Axiomatic to sign and information relating to the criteria that would enable Axiomatic to apply for a "fee waiver".
The provision of police services were explicitly declined by Axiomatic upon the basis of the terms offered. Subsequent police assistance therefore suggests a conclusion that any attempt on the part of the Victorian government through any of its instrumentalities to collect “fees” will not succeed.
If, however, there remains any intention on the part of Victoria Police to seek to recover from Axiomatic any “fees”, then please note that this attempt will be vigorously resisted.
Axiomatic is very concerned about the possibility of any future attempt by Victoria Police to utilise the power to levy fees purported to have been provided to it by the Regulations made under s277 of the Victoria Police Act. It is especially concerned about organised events whose viability may be threatened, as it was in this case, by the concurrence of two factors: first, the conduct of groups who publicly proclaim their intention to violently disrupt such events and to threaten and harm and terrify those attending them; and, second, the decision of the police, in response to such threat, to impose crippling financial penalties upon the promoters of such events merely because they have called upon the police to perform responsibilities which constitute the ordinary discharge of a core police responsibility.
That such events have commercial aspect, in no way deprives citizens attending them of an entitlement to have recourse to police protection if they are threatened. The victims of politically motivated violence and intimidatory conduct at public events are no less entitled to proper police protection merely because they purchased a ticket to participate in an event.
Axiomatic has understood during this experience that the police officers who are obliged to participate in this fee collection process in such circumstances are embarrassed and that they consider their integrity compromised. It is suggested that many officers share the repugnance held by many members of the public to the idea of the State charging an impost for the carrying out of the most elemental of its obligations - protecting the lives and safety of its citizens. The police officers with whom Axiomatic dealt were clearly discomfited by being perceived by the public as particeps criminis in the deliberate shutting down of public meetings promoting views that with which other groups disagree.
Axiomatic is of the view that members of Victorian police understand that such groups follow the same the strategy each time political conservatives gather to listen to speeches by other conservatives. That strategy is:
- To announce an intention to organise violent street opposition to the holding of a particular public event and enlist support for that opposition from the media.
- To elicit a fear on the part of those arranging the public event that the safety of participants and attendees may be at risk and cannot be guaranteed without police protection; then
- To rely upon the police to impose massive financial penalties upon those arranging such events so that those events that have been scheduled are cancelled and those that are in planning are abandoned.
If Victoria Police is obliged to be complicit in this strategy that is a matter of serious concern. It is subversive of public confidence in the rule of law.
Axiomatic has obtained advice from Counsel as to the remedies available to it or to any other promoter of a public speaking event in future who is threatened with the imposition of such levies when the event attracts the threat of violent closure from groups such as Antifa. I now summarise that advice.
The use of a delegated regulatory power to impose fees for a purpose that radically undermines the practical exercise of common law rights and freedoms is highly likely, it has been advised, to lead the Courts on judicial review to adopt a construction of the statutory provision which created the regulation-making power which is consistent with the purposes of the Act which brought Victoria Police in to being. The imposition of fees for the performance of essential police purposes is unlawful. Victoria Police may have been given various functions, but Section 8 of the Victoria Police Act (2013) strictly prescribes its purpose. It provides:
Role of Victoria Police
The role of Victoria Police is to serve the Victorian community and uphold the law so as to promote a safe, secure and orderly society.
Further, the exercise of the power to impose fees such as was threatened in this case may well provide occasion for the removal of any legal action arising therefrom to the High Court under section 39 of the Judiciary Act (1903) (Cwth). The High Court have long recognised an implied freedom of communication in relation to political matters as having its provenance in our Constitution, being one which conditions the exercise of the legislative power of the Commonwealth and States. There are a number of recent and important High Court decisions which contain dicta supportive of the exercise of the powers of the executive being similarly conditioned. The chilling effect upon political speech in Victoria of a situation where the lawless conduct of agitators can result in police imposition of massive financial penalties upon those whose free speech is attacked by them may well provide the ideal vehicle for the determination by the High Court of the question whether the implied freedom extends to executive action.
Whilst the advice given to Axiomatic is that the orthodox judicial review remedies would be successfully invoked without the need to resort to constitutional arguments, Axiomatic is cognisant of the importance of the freedoms that are at risk and of how significant a High Court clarification of this issue might be in protecting them. If necessary, Axiomatic will not hesitate to seek such a remedy or assist in others in doing so.
Axiomatic will be doing all that is possible, with the assistance of concerned members of the legal profession and of journalists and ordinary citizens, to disseminate publicly information about the availability of these remedies so that convenors or promoters of free speech events in Victoria will know how to respond effectively if Victoria Police attempt to impose such fees in such circumstances in the future.
That Victoria Police is now perceived as having accessorial responsibility for the violence perpetrated by agitators has disfigured its reputation. This is signally unfair to those officers, who, as noted above, assisted and protected members of the public on the 20th July 2018. Victoria Police will see their reputation restored as they return to a commitment to the core responsibilities of upholding the law and protecting the orderly exercise of free expression and free assembly."