Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley addresses the Australian Labor Party at Redcliffe
9th August 1997

I had decided some weeks ago to attend one of Lord Mayor Jim Soorley's public addresses to the Labor Party faithful following a tip off that the Redcliffe branch of One Nation would be holding a silent protest at the event.

It was a perfect winter day as I drove up from Karana Downs to the northern suburbs about an hour away.

When I arrived I was early but was greeted by a nice lady at the bowls club venue who explained to me in no uncertain terms that she was most disappointed at the turn out - only about 80 people were expected, but just in case some extra tables were set up in the event of people turning up at the last moment. They were not needed.

Now if this had been a One Nation meeting people would have been turned away at the door with all seats sold weeks before.

The fellows outside were enjoying their bowls while the fellows inside were enjoying the beer and the company. A small portion of the large hall had been cordoned off for the upcoming speech by the great Lord Mayor Jim.

My presence as an unknown amongst the small gathering of party faithful was, I might say, treated with some high degree of suspicion with the local state Labor member for Redcliffe, Ray Hollis, coming across to subtly interrogate me. As the Brisbane Anti-Racism Committee had said in their committee meeting some weeks before, you tend to stand out in small numbers... the difference was I was there to listen not to assault anybody.

Hollis was a nice enough fellow and very kindly posed for me (left).

The people who did come to hear Soorley were mostly in their 70s or 80s. I was, at over 40, probably the youngest person at the event. Of the 80 people present after you took away the local Labor executive and the dignitaries the local Labor party guests probably numbered closer to forty.

Lord Mayor Jim, arriving with well travelled partner Mary Philip, introduced himself to me and everybody else in the room before the formalities started. The thing that really caught my attention was that after I had confided that I was employed by a company called Interactive Presentations he said "Oh yes I know the one, they used to do some HR work for us".

Got to tell you folks that that is a new one on me - I will have to check my company records, but as the managing director of the company since day one I can assure you and Lord Mayor Jim that he is very much mistaken!

The group at my table were very nice but kept on asking questions about my background and political allegiances as I had made it quite clear that I was not a member of the Australian Labor Party.

The fellow on my right was born in New Zealand. He had a Fijian mother and New Zealand father. We had a very entertaining time discussing issues before and after my questions to Soorley - a nicer fellow I could not hope to meet.

There was a small protest outside, the first ever held by a group of One Nation supporters, at a political event. The behaviour from the members of the Redcliffe branch of One Nation was impeccable.

Early talk at the table that evening was about the protesters. The document the protesters gave to guests as they arrived at the venue being handed from person to person to scorn - it was rather like a One Nation meeting but in reverse!

It felt quite peculiar hearing all the Labor faithful pooh-poohing the document as being full of "half-truths" - now where have I heard that before?

One middle aged gentleman was really fired up saying that he should have driven over them and threatening to go outside and beat them up... he sounded more like the hooligans who protested at One Nation Party meetings to me!

The One Nation handout seemed to really stir up Lord Mayor Jim Soorley who spent most of his speech berating Pauline Hanson. In fact I wondered what he had come to tell the party faithful because his speech was jam packed full of tried and true slugs against the independent member for Oxley.

The mayor made some quite remarkable statements including the one which capped the evening for me that Pauline Hanson spoke "racist bigoted biased bile" - spitting out the words with obvious hate. Other one-liners included "she was the most evil woman on earth", that the "hatred could be seen in her eyes".

What seemed lost on the mayor was that his own bigoted point of views were very apparent from the manner in which he spat out the words with hatred when he spoke about her - strangely, I personally felt, that he appeared to so with a degree of devious satisfaction.

Oh, and by the way that is his watch he is grasping in his left hand. The mayor waived it around like some unfortunate salami awaiting disposal but never quite getting there.. he did this the whole time he spoke.

This is the man who also compared Hanson to Hitler a few months ago.

After the mayor had had his say the floor was invited to ask questions. There were a couple of sympathetic noises from the party faithful about the "terrible Hanson".

I raised my hand and took the mayor to task about his claim that Australia needed to be One Nation and that Hanson would destroy this.

I asked him to explain then, without referring to Hanson, why Piers Ackerman of the Daily Telegraph had said earlier this year that Australia would be "divvyed up into a number of Aboriginal states" through the adoption of "The United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples".

Of course the answer was blindingly clear, in reflection I wondered why I had not thought of it before - Ackerman was a right wing radical and Australia would never be turned into a number of Aboriginal states.

For a few tortuous minutes Lord Mayor Jim skirted around the document that he obviously knew nothing about trying to turn the heat on poor old Ackerman.

Undaunted I claimed my right to reply and asked the mayor why then Mick Dodson had said that this (the UN declaration) was "the floor not the ceiling. We are still on the plains but hope to climb the foothills and then the mountains in terms of our rights".

Soorley as sweet as you would please (like the earlier comment that my company worked for the Brisbane City Council) had an answer which was beautifully presented but totally shot his earlier claim that what the allegedly right-wing Ackerman had said in the news paper would never happen.

All of a sudden Dodson was right - the indigenous people had been downtrodden for too long - and I was now called the right wing radical... I don't think I was the only one confused by this sudden shift in direction.

The facade stripped off I realised that the great Lord Mayor Jim Soorley was nothing more than one big poody tat... piddles when put under pressure.

After his speech Soorley made a sudden departure with Mary Philip after Linda Lavarch had thanked him for answering "difficult questions from the floor" so well. (Linda and Mike on right - taken before Soorley's speech). Michael was the Federal Attorney General under Paul Keating. I heard a chance remark by Lord Mayor Jim Soorley to Lavarch congratulating him on being number one on the Australian Republican Movement ticket - an obvious case of "jobs for the boys".

A short while after Soorley left the venue with Mary Philip the table at which I sat was embroiled in a very healthy discussion about the role of the United Nations in Australian affairs and I felt that I had at least got a few members thinking past the ACTU.

The questions about my background continued until I left....

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