Perth: Geert Wilders falsely says free speech denied

Poster for the planned Geert Wilders protest in Perth.

Geert Wilders called off his February 20 public meeting in Perth after the hotel where he was going to speak cancelled his booking.

Organisers of Wilders' tour tried to claim that protesters had intimidated the hotel and implied that Wilders' "free speech'' was threatened as people were "denied'' the chance to hear Wilders talk.

Wilders' most prominent supporter in the Australian parliament — disgraced Liberal senator Cory Bernardi — also tried to claim that there was "free speech double standard" involved.

It is not surprising — if not exactly honest — that Wilders' supporters cynically try to shift the public discussion to one of free speech. Most people support the notion of free speech but, equally, a large majority reject Wilders' attempts to trample on religious freedoms.

The truth of the matter is that Wilders had many opportunities to get his viewpoint aired in local and national media. He also had the opportunity to speak to local supporters in a number of meetings that he decided to keep secret.

While falsely blaming protesters — who utterly reject that they played any role in intimidating the hotel — organisers of Wilders' tour ignored that they failed to tell the hotel who they were hosting. It was only after the hotel management learned who the guest was that they cancelled the booking. Clearly they did not want to be associated with Wilders' particular brand of bigotry.

[Campaigners in Melbourne and Sydney also protested against Wilders' visit, disrupting planned functions in the respective cities.]