World Congress of Families Regional Event in Melbourne, Australia
Endeavour Forum has organised quarterly public meetings for decades, often with federal or state MPs as guest speakers. We have on a few occasions faced small protests, once when Tony Abbott was Minister for Health and spoke at one of our birthday celebrations and, on another occasion, when a state MP who is pro-life was our guest speaker. However, the combination of Endeavour Forum and the World Congress of Families hosting an Event at which federal and state Ministers gave the opening and welcome speeches and Dr. Angela Lanfranchi spoke about the link between induced abortion and breast cancer, touched a raw nerve with the pro-abortionists, as did our stance on marriage with homosexual activists, not to mention those who were unhappy with the Federal budget, plus the usual rent-a-dole-crowd who have nothing better to do than protest and "occupy" without really having any constructive solutions to societal problems. I will refer collectively to these groups as the "ferals" from now on.
We usually have our meetings in church halls, and I began naively trying two parishes, but with the ferals threatening there would be l,000 protestors blocking entrances, infiltrating the halls and generally making the Event unmanageable, both parishes bailed out, although the police in both areas undertook to provide adequate protection.
Incidentally the police have been splendid throughout this saga - they alerted squads in every region where I booked a venue and were courteous and helpful throughout. It has been a pleasure to deal with them and also with the "intelligence" division which kept me informed of estimated feral numbers, and assured me that there would be far less than l,000.
Next I tried a reception centre, but, once the ferals got wind of this, they threatened the reception centre that, not only would they wreck the WCF Event, but they would ruin their business by targeting future wedding receptions at their venue. To me this sounds like quasi-criminal behaviour, and it is an issue which the State government should examine, because it is a genuine threat to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. I also tried the Malvern Town Hall, (I am a ratepayer in this area) and here my local MP, State Treasurer, the Hon. Michael O'Brien, was very helpful. He got the police to assure the Town Hall would provide adequate protection against protestors. However the Town Hall is heritage-listed, and the Council decided it was too risky, even though it is situated right next to the Malvern police station.
So then I tried to be really clever and booked the Event at a hotel under the name of "Babette's Feast": it was to be a birthday celebration, which it was, for our patron, Dr. Joe Santamaria OAM (91) and Arthur Hartwig, one of our email news editors (87). Of course I told the hotel management of the real format and who the illustrious speakers were. We worked out and I paid for the internal security, and the hotel faithfully kept my secret. So guess what happened – the staff of the federal and state Ministers involved did a "risk assessment", the police descended in force on the hotel and assured them they would have adequate police to deal with l,000 protestors, and the hotel panicked because they realised the premises would be locked down, and their other guests would not be able to get in or out easily. What these ministerial staffers do not realise is that, when the government books a hotel for a controversial conference, like the G20, it books the entire hotel, and the hotel is locked down to other than official delegates. Of course Endeavour Forum cannot afford to book an entire hotel, so there I was 48 hours before the 30th August with no venue and 400 registrants.
I was offered a Christian community centre in an outer suburb, but it had 24 acres of unfenced grounds and would have required a regiment of the Australian Defence Force to protect it. Then Danny Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries offered me his auditorium, promised faithfully that he would not back out, said he was friends with the local police and, best of all, mentioned that his venue had a steel mesh fence around it and could be relatively easily protected. So at last I had a venue, but then the saga began with the speakers backing out - the Liberal MPs said they could not speak at a venue that was registered as the office of another political party (Danny's auditorium is registered as the office of Rise Up Australia). I was unaware of this Liberal Party policy - it seems an absurd policy because it would be a greatopportunity to win adherents to your own Party, or even some of its policies if you can do so on the premises of another Party. I didn't have time to argue with the Liberals, as I was too busy replacing them with high quality alternative speakers. The Hon. Kevin Andrews and the Hon. Robert Clark were only going to stay for a few minutes anyway to open the Event and welcome delegates to Victoria, and Dr. Larry Jacobs, Managing Director of the World Congress of Families and Dr. Joe Santamaria performed those formalities adequately.
The apology offered by Bernie Finn, MP, convenor of the March for the Babies was interesting - he withdrew before I had settled on Danny Nalliah's venue, because his wife and daughters were concerned for his safety. No doubt they were after the rough treatment so many of us experienced at last year's March for the Babies, but I believe it is the duty of State MPs to work to ensure the safety of themselves and everyone else at controversial meetings, not stay away.
This Event was turning into a huge issue of freedom of speech and assembly, and was not just about pro-life and pro-marriage politics. It was also a huge irony that the previous venues I had tried to book had rejected the Event because of security issues relating to the speakers, and now the speakers were rejecting the Event because of the venue! Well I guess one can't win them all, but it made me even more determined to keep faith with the 400 supporters who had registered, and to organise an Event they would never forget.
Next of the speakers to pull out were Bishop Elliott and Fr. Glen Tattersall, who was chairing the talk by Cardinal Burke. Their excuse was that some years ago Danny Nalliah had said - or was reported to have said - that maybe the bush fires were God's judgment on Victoria because of our awful abortion legislation. Fr. Tattersall added for good measure that he would be advising the Cardinal not to speak at what was a "Protestant conventicle". I have no idea what a "Protestant conventicle" means, but I don't think it means a Protestant mini-convent! When I reminded Fr. Tattersall of the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah and said that, while I don't share Danny's theology, many pastors do speak in that style, he became angry and ordered me out of his office lest I speak to the Cardinal and offer him a different perspective on the venue. Overlooked in all this is that Danny was not the Convenor or organiser of the Event, he was merely renting his auditorium to Endeavour Forum for the cost of the security guards. How could we be blamed for what our landlord said a few years ago? Whatever happened to "interfaith dialogue" and "ecumenism"? And what about "anti-discrimination policies" so popular with the intelligentsia?
All this made me even more determined that the Event would not be shut down, even if I had only one speaker, and I and Danny's dog, Esha, were the only audience. Yes, Danny Nalliah is a natural human being with a loving family and a dog, and in his backyard Danny is building an Ark for his family and his dog, just in case of another Flood..... (THIS IS A JOKE, I have to state this for all those pompous elite who have no sense of humour....). But I was NOT the only member of the audience, and I had excellent substitute speakers who came at less than 12 hours notice to give superb talks.
* With less than 48 hours to go, my loyal committee got on their phones and mobiles and called nearly everyone of the 400 who had registered, and most of them came to the new venue even though Hallam is a far out suburb distant from the other venues we had advertised. (Yes we had done several re-printings of the program, plus a mail out covering the various changes, but we had no time to do all that again).
* The local police provided excellent protection so that all registrants got in safely and all but one feral of the 50 protestors were kept out. My "intelligence" source was correct in estimating that there would be far fewer than the l,000 protestors the ferals had boasted about. One feral stripped down to her waist and painted her nipples bright blue. This was the most intellectual argument of the day on the feral side of the fence, but I failed to get the point.
* Teresa Martin, President of Cherish Life, Queensland, flew down from Queensland, and very competently chaired the Event when I explained I could not chair it as well as deal with the media and the police.
* Dr. David van Gend, a busy GP and Queensland Secretary of the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life, drove all the way from Toowoomba to Brisbane airport late on Friday night to catch the last flight to Melbourne so he could chair Dr. Lanfranchi's segment and give the talk on euthanasia. On the abortion-breast cancer issue he emphasised that this should not be a pro-life versus pro-abortion issue but a scientific issue, free of abortion politics. On euthanasia he gave both moral and medical perspectives.
* Rev. Mark Durie, vicar of St. Mary's Anglican church in Caulfield, author and theologian, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Adjunct Research Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths at Melbourne School of Theology, referred to Bettina Arndt's article in The Australian in which she had documented how children living with their biological married parents do better on education. health and societal outcomes, and he queried why quoting such studies enraged so many. He also referred to the threats to freedom of speech highlighted by our difficulty in getting a venue.
* Danny Nalliah sat inside the fence with a megaphone and assured the ferals that "Jesus loves you and I love all of you too". This what our Catholic prelates should have done and I am guessing Cardinal Burke might have done so had Fr. Tattersall allowed me to speak to him, because in Rome Cardinal Burke courageously took part in the Manif pour tous-Italia demonstration on behalf of the natural family. Our Catholic prelates should note that Danny's "Options plus Care" pregnancy support service is the only one that offers ultra-sound screening. Seeing their in-utero babies is a great deterrent to abortion.
* Our caterers did a splendid job after much turmoil. Tanya O'Brien and her Helpers, who were delegated to provide morning and afternoon teas, never knew from one day to the next whether they would be on duty or not, as some venues would allow outside catering, some would not. Ditto for our lunch provider, Steve Khan of the Australian Association of Pakistani Christians. He inspected kitchens at some venues, then was cancelled at others, but he provided an excellent lunch at short notice at Hallam. Steve also announced an initiative of "Forgiveness Day" when we each forgive someone else. (I have a long list of people I need to forgive).
* Several Catholic priests, nuns and seminarians as well as other Christian pastors attended, and were effusive in their praise for the Event. One lady told me she hadn't had such an exciting day in a long time, she loved being escorted by the police through the yelling mob of ferals. Incidentally the police also kept a low profile watch on the other venues which I had booked, just in case not-up-to-date ferals turned up there. A great deal of Melbourne was well protected on Saturday, 30th August 2014.
* Rev. Fred Nile, Christian Democratic Party, the only MP to keep faith with us, heard Dr. Lanfranchi speak on aborton and breast cancer, and has raised the matter in the NSW Parliament requesting research on the issue.
* The Event was very multi-ethnic. Danny's security guards seemed to be Polynesian, and Bernie Gaynor and Brendan Keogh’s squads were dinkum Aussies. Michael Treacy from the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification did a superb job with the audio-visuals, despite all the changes of speakers.
* There was great networking among the Catholic and Protestant groups at the Event, many of whom had never met before. What I found most cheering was how much everyone seemed to enjoy the day. "Babette's Feast" worked out splendidly, and there were smiles all around and laughter when I quoted the email I received from an atheist who said he was sure I would go to hell.
I was determined to stand up for the right to free speech, even though I might have had to pitch a marquee on my back lawn. It may not have been big enough for 400 people, but it is big enough for me to build a mini Ark. You know, just in case Danny Nalliah or the global warming devotees are right after all.....