September 13, 2016

Tribute to Richard Neville

Private Member's Statement
Parliament of New South Wales
Legislative Assembly

13 September 2016

Today I pay tribute to the late, great Richard Neville, who died last week at the age of 74 years. Richard was the co-founder, alongside Richard Walsh, of the groundbreaking satirical OZ magazine. He and his family lived in my electorate for many years. OZ magazine was launched on April Fools' Day 1963 as a magazine of dissent, and set about lampooning and offending as many establishment icons and values as it could. Neville, Walsh and OZ 's contributor artist Martin Sharp were twice charged with printing an obscene publication and both times were found guilty.

Neville was given a prison sentence for publishing a photo of himself and two other men urinating into a fountain. The public outrage at the sentencing and censorship of the magazine that followed provided the social backdrop to Neville being acquitted on appeal. The whole experience certainly raised the profile of the magazine and Neville himself. Richard Neville had not learned any lesson from this experience. After travelling the hippie trail overland from Australia to London he founded the London OZ in 1967, working with Martin Sharp again. Again he found himself convicted of obscenity. The magazine had captured the ire of the obscene publications squad.

Neville and others were charged with "Conspiring … to produce a magazine containing obscene, lewd, indecent and … perverted articles, cartoons and drawings with intent to debauch and corrupt". John Mortimer, QC, of Rumpole of the Bailey fame, assisted by the then junior counsel Geoffrey Robertson, said at the start of the trial that "the case stood at the crossroads of our liberty, at the boundaries of our freedom to think and draw … what we please". Neville's conviction was also eventually overturned on appeal. Famously, John Lennon and Yoko Ono joined one of the protest marches at the time against the prosecution and organised the recording of God Save Us by the Elastic Oz Band to raise funds and gain publicity. Publications of OZ reached a peak of 80,000 around this time. OZ became the flag-bearer for counterculture in London during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Contributors included fellow Australians Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes and Clive James.

While always interested in politics and philosophy, as he got older and returned to Australia Richard Neville became increasingly interested in environmental sustainability. As part of his own television show Extra Dimensions he sought out alternative, non-mainstream projects that in turn eventually led to him exploring environmental issues and co-launching the Australian Futures Foundation, which helps businesses plan for the future, and gets businesses and environmental organisations working together to achieve outcomes.

Richard Neville's blog also dealt with environmental issues, and he spoke very strongly against militarism and war. Richard continued to write and he produced several books including Hippie Hippie Shake, his recollection of the 1960s, which was turned into a film in 2010 but is still unreleased. Richard Neville' s high point of fame may have been in 1991 when actor Hugh Grant portrayed him in the television drama The Trials of Oz, which I am sure both amused and horrified him at the same time. Richard Neville is survived by his wife and speechwriter Julie Clarke and their daughters Lucy and Angelica. On his blog, the last entry dated 1 September 2009 is a kind of blank-verse poem that opens with the words:

"A tragedy for humanity is that thinkers, philosophers & futurists, are 40 years ahead of politicians when it comes to sounding alarms."

I hope that the politicians in this place can look at Richard Neville's life and heed the alarms he was sounding about our environment and our future as a human race.

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