Dutch MP Geert Wilders. Photo: AFP
The obvious question is, what are they afraid of? Is it fear of violence, or vandalism, or simply fear of association?
Debbie Robinson, a small business operator who describes herself as an ordinary citizen, wants to bring to Australia a Dutch political leader who is a supporter of democracy, freedom of religion, feminism and gay rights. But when she started making arrangements all she encountered was fear.
''In Sydney, venues that were initially available were cancelled or would not take the booking when they realised who the speaker was,'' she told me. She provided a list of rejections: the Hilton Hotel, North Sydney Leagues Club, Sydney Masonic Centre, Wesley Convention Centre, Luna Park Function Centre, the Concourse at Chatswood and the Sir John Clancy Auditorium at the University of NSW.
''I offered a church-based venue in Sydney a donation and their reply was, 'You could offer $4 million and we would not accept your booking'.''
Finding venues was not her only problem. ''Earlier in the year I approached APN Outdoor to arrange a four-week run of bus ads in Sydney. The artwork was forwarded to them and I was quoted a price for the job . . . Then I was advised they would not be able to run the ad as it was too political and would result in the buses being damaged and defaced. They would not say who would do the damage.''
The same happened in Perth, where Robinson lives, when venues declined to take her booking, including the Burswood Casino. When she tried to organise a payments system for the tour, she was rejected by Westpac. The bank, which has been courting the Chinese Communist government for years, wanted nothing to do with this Dutch democrat.
''I was organising an e-way payment system with Westpac to link to the website of the Q Society [the sponsor of the tour]. I received a call from a manager who said the Westpac Risk Management Team had decided the material for sale was offensive and inappropriate and therefore they would not proceed with the e-way system. I asked to speak to the manager responsible and was told he was on leave.''
The Dutch MP causing so much concern is Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party of Freedom (PVV), the king-maker in Dutch politics over the past two years. When Wilders withdrew his support for the government last year, it collapsed and a national election was called.
A month after that election, in which the PVV polled a million votes and won 16 seats, Wilders was scheduled to be in Australia. The trip was cancelled after it was sabotaged by the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen.
The minister then had the gall to write an opinion piece, published in The Australian on October 2 last year, in which he claimed, ''I have decided not to intervene to deny [Wilders] a visa because I believe that our democracy is strong enough, our multiculturalism robust enough and our commitment to freedom of speech entrenched enough that our society can withstand the visit of a fringe commentator.''
Reality check: Bowen's department sat on Wilders' visa application for almost two months, then acted only after the minister received public criticism and Wilders was cancelling his trip.
No such long delay hindered the visit of Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, an apologist for jihad, when he made a speaking tour in Australia last September while Wilders was being frozen out. When questioned in Parliament, Bowen replied: ''Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been proscribed in Australia . . . This entry permit was issued in accordance with the normal procedures for British nationals.''
Apparently, the anti-Western Hizb ut-Tahrir is not ''fringe'', nor worthy of an excoriating opinion piece, but the leader of a party that won 24 seats, 1.4 million votes, and 15 per cent of the vote in the Dutch 2010 election represents an extremist fringe.
People are entitled to loathe Wilders, or shun him. They are also entitled to support him, or hear him. The problems encountered with his visit illustrate the double-speak, double-standards and fear that exists when it comes to the subject for which Wilders is notorious - confronting Muslim extremism.
Neither Wilders nor the PVV have ever been involved in violent conduct, yet he has lived under 24-hour police protection for the past nine years, since two Muslim fundamentalists were arrested after a siege in 2004 and charged with planning to assassinate him.
When Wilders comes to Australia next month for speaking engagements in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, he will be accompanied by five Dutch security officers. The venues will not be revealed until 48 hours before each speech.
Wilders believes Islam is a political ideology, not just a religion, and should be compared with totalitarian belief systems. He has compared the Koran to Fascism and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. He advocates ending immigration by Muslims because the Netherlands was losing its demographic and social stability. For this he was taken to court for hate speech. He won, but the case occupied three years.
Wilders is opposed to what he calls the Islamification of Europe by a combination of demography, immigration and accommodations by multiculturalism that are not reciprocated by Muslims. Two other Dutch political activists who were similarly critical of Islam were subject to numerous assassination attempts. One was murdered, the other fled to America.
Debbie Robinson believes the fear she has encountered in Australia merely confirms her reasons for arranging Wilders' visit: ''With every refusal I asked why, and was almost always informed that management had concerns about the repercussions. The audience was never the issue. The issue was offending Muslims. Looking at the number of cancellations and refusals it is apparent the Islamic community are not getting their message across about being the religion of peace.''