Socialist poet Victor Billot of Dunedin has returned fire on the misnamed “Taxpayers’ Union” who are now on the second year of their doomed campaign against him.
Mr Billot says the Taxpayers’ Union have again attacked his poetry and Creative New Zealand for funding provided to the Newsroom website which publishes a weekly satirical poem on current events by Mr Billot.
“They are now whingeing about a poem I wrote about MP Simeon Brown and a recent storm in a tea cup over what corridor in Parliament a portrait of Winston Churchill was placed.”
He says the Taxpayers’ Union is a classic example of the politically correct trend in society where radical groups try to “cancel” or “deplatform” those they disagree with.
“Like all book burners, the totalitarian minded Taxpayers’ Union want to shut down free speech and eliminate the robust debate that is so important for democracy.”
The poem in question had received several hundred comments and reactions on social media, good and bad.
Mr Billot says his poem did not accuse Simeon Brown of racism, nor was it slanderous, nor was it nasty – it was a joke.
“The poem was just making fun of his old fogey style politics, but Simeon is a smart advocate for his ideas and in a sense my poem acknowledges this by featuring him as a public figure of note.”
The poem did point out that Winston Churchill held racist and imperialist views, advocated dropping poison gas on Afghan tribespeople, and was arguably partly responsible for the Bengal Famine, says Mr Billot.
“The poem is satirical humour with a bit of a sting, and the Taxpayers’ Union need to lighten up and get a real job”.
“They seem to think I am a supporter of the Labour Party which is news to me. I am a critic of the Government – from the left.”
Mr Billot said he received $100 before tax for his weekly poem, and had nothing to do with the funding himself.
He says he would write the poems for free, but accepts this small contribution, because there were two important principles at stake – freedom of speech and public support for the arts.
“As a democratic society, our elected Governments provide funding to all sorts of activities from sports to national parks to arts and culture. This is important.”
Mr Billot says it is also important that the Government or their agencies, let alone shadowy private interest groups, didn’t have a say over what artists or writers produced.
“Any art is political in one way or another, that’s what these philistine deadbeats can’t get their heads around.”
Mr Billot repeated his call for the Taxpayers’ Union to provide audited accounts to show they had repaid the $60,000 they claimed in taxpayer funded wage subsidies in 2020, when they became a national laughing stock for their outrageous hypocrisy.
Mr Billot says he does appreciate the enormous promotional work the Taxpayers’ Union is doing on his behalf.
His poetry collection The Sets was published earlier this year by Otago University Press to favourable reviews and briefly appeared in the best seller list.
He says the poems in that book are often serious and generally quite different from his satires which he sees as “fun with a bit of a sharp point.”