There was a talkback session on ABC Local’s Night Life last night about the upcoming Papal visit and the NSW special laws so quietly foisted on us recently. Arthur covers those laws here from his point of view:
The Australian and international blogosphere is abuzz with news of New South Wales’ antidemocratic laws protecting Catholicism from criticism during the World Youth Day festivities:
EXTRAORDINARY new powers will allow police to arrest and fine people for “causing annoyance” to World Youth Day participants and permit partial strip searches at hundreds of Sydney sites, beginning today.
The laws, which operate until the end of July, have the potential to make a crime of wearing a T-shirt with a message on it, undertaking a Chaser-style stunt, handing out condoms at protests, riding a skateboard or even playing music, critics say.
Police and volunteers from the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service will be able to direct people to cease engaging in conduct that “causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event”.
People who fail to comply will be subject to a $5500 fine.
You may find a very amusing range of T-shirts that have appeared as a result in Arthur’s post.
My own feeling is that prior to the NSW government’s heavy-handed and authoritarian action most people here accepted, whether with or without enthusiasm, that World Youth Day is indeed a major event of note and thus accepted that it would lead to inconvenience. However, most Sydney-siders really were not all that interested, and very few would have bothered to go out demonstrating one way or another.
Now, however, the government has so incensed people, including many prominent Catholics, that demonstrations and protests are far more likely than they would otherwise have been.
Given that current laws governing such events were, according to many commentators, quite sufficient to deal with any really bad examples of disruption to the event, the NSW government has been very foolish to have foreshadowed issues that probably would not have arisen.
If it does go pear-shaped, they need only look in the mirror to find the guilty party.