An extraordinary event took place in Sydney last Sunday night. At very short notice and calling in favours from right across town, a one-night stand called ‘SEDITION!’ hit the stage of the Sydney Theatre in Millers Point.


Max Gillies as Amanda Vanstone

‘SEDITION!’ was staged because writers, performers and journalists realised the dangers inherent in the sedition provisions of Howard’s proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill. The unfettered ability to openly criticise the government and the establishment is the defining characteristic that differentiates a healthy democracy from the authoritarian, closed and fear-ridden regimes we are supposedly fighting in this War on Terror. ‘SEDITION!’ was staged to loudly proclaim that Howard and Ruddock’s attack on freedom of expression is wrong, and must be resisted.

Rocketed along by Wendy Harmer and Andrew Denton as co-comperes, ‘SEDITION!’ will be long-remembered by all those lucky enough to have been there. Long-time activists commented that it was ‘the best political protest event’ they had ever witnessed. Others, who had come along out of a sense of duty and solidarity expecting a bit of convivial or even tribal fun were overwhelmed at the professionalism and talent on display.


Raucous laughter combined with serious intent was the order of the night.


Combining stand-up comedy with skits, musical satire, cartoons, video, interviews and speeches, ‘SEDITION!’ presented the best side of progressive politics in Australia today. The talent included Max Gillies and Eddie Perfect, Gerry Connolly, the Wharf Revue (Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, Genevieve Lemon and Phil Scott), Wil Anderson, Dave Callan, Julian Morrow and Craig Reucassel. Using theatrical satire, cabaret and agitprop tactics, these performers took a larrikin blowtorch to the flaccid, quivering underbelly of the Howard Government, its camp followers (including Kim Beazley) and its elite buddies in the smug commentariat of the Right.

If last Sunday is any indication, satire is set for a huge revival in Australia. And why wouldn’t it be, with targets like Howard, Ruddock, Vanstone, Downer, Minchin, Albrechtsen, Akerman, Beazley.

There were also speeches from writer Tom Keneally (read out by the STC’s Robyn Nevin), journalist Chas Savage, online political activists David Madden and Jeremy Heimans from GetUP!, and representing New Matilda: Professor Spencer Zifcak. On behalf of New Matilda, I had the privilege of thanking the 850 people attending the sold-out performance. Proceeds from the box office will go towards New Matilda‘s Human Rights Act Campaign.

There are two pieces from ‘SEDITION!’ in today’s issue of New Matilda: the speeches by Chas Savage and Spencer Zifcak. Other pieces from the performance will be published over the next couple of issues.


I want to take this opportunity to thank all the performers and speakers who contributed to SEDITION!’ Thanks to Robyn Nevin and the STC for making the Sydney Theatre available, and to all the backstage crew who worked overtime on a Sunday. A special thanks to Wendy Harmer and her band of helpers. And finally thanks to the audience for their generosity and camaraderie.


Meanwhile, the union-organised marches around the country on Tuesday galvanised hundreds of thousands of ordinary Australians who are clearly not happy with Howard’s Industrial Relations agenda. New Matilda urges all our subscribers and readers to continue making your voice heard through your parliamentary representatives.


Many of you have already contacted your MPs and Senators. Thank you. Some of you have not yet received a response. Call again. Email again. Write again. Arrange meetings. Demand answers.


For those of you who haven’t emailed or written or called your parliamentarians, I encourage you to do so. New Matilda has included a list of questions about the Anti-Terrorism laws and ways of identifying and locating your electorate and representatives in previous issues (click here).

This is a critical period in Australia‘s democratic history. We must not let the moment pass, hoping that someone else will act, someone else will take personal responsibility.

Act now.


José Borghino


Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.