Charles is a person of interest

The reason Charles Richardson was kicked off the Hawthorn campus of Melbourne Private University on Saturday has nothing to do with media freedom and everything to do about being alert and alarmed. It seems the Australian Federal Police plods have decided that Charles is the sort of eccentric who would use the special media access to the PM and areas of the floor to allow a fanatic to enter and do a nefarious deed on the PM, or the business observers, or the mass of Liberal Party card carrying delegates recognisable by their white badges.

It shows that being a genius, a stirrer and a somewhat idiosyncratic fighter for liberty for 25 years makes you in the brave new world: something that those charged with protecting society’s freedoms find troubling and I find that troubling too. I can confirm that the instructions to remove Charles came not from within the thin-skinned Liberal Party merely because Charles came in wearing his Crikey badge and donned his Crikey cap, but from the senior liaison person in the protective detail advance team who asked that Charles be kept away.

It seems to make sense that if Charles were to be someone’s mule, a media accreditation would be ideal for getting the sort of access to areas where only the media and officials can enter. But they just don’t know Charles. Charles, God bless him, abhors violence and loves dialogue. He believes the pen is mightier than the sword. He is as likely to assist a terrorist plot as I am to use my grandmothers as suicide bombers. Given they’re both dead, you can rate that one a big zero on the risk scale.

Charles Richardson responds:

This all sounds pretty unlikely to me. As John Button once famously said, “Given a choice between a conspiracy and a c*ck-up, assume that it’s a c*ck up”. But the fact that it’s got any plausibility at all is a sad reflection on where the Howard security state is taking us.

The real test will come in two days time when I get photographed and fingerprinted by US immigration in San Francisco. If they put me on a plane straight back home we’ll know that Crikey has been upgraded from muck-rakers to bomb-throwers.

Peter Fray

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