Lord Christopher Monckton has slammed Port Adelaide Football Club for its decision to withdraw its venue for his speaking tour, blaming the club’s decision on pressure from activist group GetUp.
In an exclusive Crikey interview, Lord Monckton laid the blame for the withdrawal squarely at the feet of GetUp who he accused of orchestrating an online campaign to silence him. He expressed supreme displeasure at the cavalcade of venue cancellations on his east coast tour following negative publicity over his use of an on-stage Nazi swastika.
“There has been a long-planned organised attempt to stop me being heard in Australia on this trip. I got wind that plans were afoot to do this some months ago,” Monckton told Crikey.
“And free speech used to be precious to Australians. Giving people a fair go was what Australia was all about. Now it seems things have changed.”
When asked for an explanation for Port Adelaide’s actions, Monckton didn’t miss a beat.
“I know there’s an organisation called GetUp that had a ‘destroy the Monckton tour ‘ page on its website and was encouraging hundreds of members to ring round the venues and try to persuade them not to allow me to speak,” he said.
But GetUp national director Simon Sheikh hit back this morning, denying “any contact with any of the venues that decided to cancel the bookings…nor have we invited any GetUp members to do so.”
On Monday, Crikey revealed that “German” clubs in three cities — Adelaide, Fremantle and Melbourne — had contacted organiser Leon Ashby from the Climate Sceptics party to withdraw their venues in the wake of the Nazi scandal. ln front of a PowerPoint display of a giant swastika last month in Los Angeles, Monckton branded decorated economist Ross Garnaut a “fascist” for his dogmatism in backing the federal government’s carbon tax, an allusion for which he was later forced to apologise.
Yesterday, Port Adelaide — intended as a replacement for the cancelled German club date — also backed away.
Crikey understands that just minutes after 5AA Adelaide radio host Leon Byner mentioned Monckton was speaking at Port Adelaide on his radio show, a club manager jumped on the phone to Ashby to cancel. This afternoon in an email spray, Ashby said the tour was “getting way beyond the [sic] joke”:
“Why are people afraid of being able to have business transaction events with climate sceptics — is everything you or I do tainted with who we associate with?”
Ashby implied that because Port Adelaide often hosts risque sportsman’s nights they should be able to host an anodyne climate sceptic:
“So why the sensitivity on this issue? Are we in a society with people saying ‘unclean unclean’ their minds are evil because they think CO2 is not a pollutant.
“This is footy clubs not giving the public freedom to hear both sides of a story. Is this is [sic] the new world of the thought police?”
Ashby claimed Port Adelaide cancelled because they were afraid to lose government cash and subsidies:
“The corruption of freedom of speech because Government Grants are only given when you support the party line.”
But Andrew Rutter, communications & media manager for the Port Adelaide Football Club told Crikey that “the booking was accepted by a staff member, but was cancelled after management became aware of it and gave consideration to the matter.”
“The Port Adelaide Football Club is a sporting club and that is what we are about. The Club respects everyone’s right to an opinion, but does not see itself or its facilities as a platform for any political viewpoint.”
The ailing Port Adelaide club could have done with Monckton’s room hire fee. Earlier this month, the AFL and SANFL announced a $14 million crisis grant for the club to wipe out $1.5 million in debt.
As for GetUp’s hand in the string of venue shutdowns, Sheikh ruled out any involvement : “Lord Monckton’s claims that GetUp is in any way involved in the decision made by venues to end their involvement in his Australian speaking tour are patently untrue.”
“While GetUp is obviously opposed to Monckton’s anti-climate science stance, we have not at any point sough to limit his freedom of speech — and we don’t intend to so in the future.
“It’s disappointing that Lord Monckton would lash out at GetUp members simply because he’s taken as gospel unfounded accusations made by the likes of Andrew Bolt,” Sheikh said.
“These men may find it easier to digest a fabricated version of events where there has been underhanded, foul play, but the fact of the matter is these venues don’t want to be associated with Lord Monckton and his brand of fear-mongering. This is something they would have discovered if they had engaged in fact-checking rather than making it up as they go.”
The Port Adelaide cancellation makes it six venues to ban Monckton from their premises, including the Broncos’ Leagues Club, Brisbane restaurant Gambaro’s and the three German clubs.
Lord Monckton was unable to name an alternative Adelaide venue yesterday.