Tensions started rising even before the talk started. As I queued for Andrew Bolt’s slot at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, bags were searched, armed police patrolled the crowd and people in backpacks were turned away. His topic, How Many Dangerous Ideas Can One Person Have?, now seemed like a warning -- would speaking in public be one of them?

As I grabbed a seat in the second row, surrounded by Bolt supporters, I experienced the unusual sensation of feeling both young and stylish (not in Crocs). The Drama Theatre, with 544 seats, looked to be full.