Perhaps the most alarming aspect of all this is the muted response laws like this seem to generate. Oh, sure, people grumble, in much the same way people grumble about their local council cracking down on overhanging branches. But the potential for abuse - and the precedent set by the government enacting new, authoritarian legislation whenever they feel like it - doesn't really seem to hit home.
I'm not trying to pull a Naomi Wolf here. I don't really think Supreme Leader Watkins is about to start sending in the army every time someone stages a protest, and heaven knows Iemma has neither the drive nor the competence to do so. But people are getting so accustomed to having this or that event invoked as a pretext for upping the city's Laura Norder quotient, one begins to suspect that such an action would barely raise an eyebrow. It's sad, and it's dangerous. Remember these images? They're out of place in any democracy, let alone one with a supposedly proud anti-authoritarian tradition.
Of course, the NSW Opposition, many of whom would be quite happy as members of Generalissimo Franco's goon squad, didn't object to the laws per se, at least not as the bill was being debated (to their credit, the Legislative Review Committee did raise serious objections). Instead, the Libs' Jonathan O'Dea took the opportunity to provide a few helpful suggestions of his own:
In light of the recent APEC experience, I particularly urge the Government to consider better ways of dealing with the ABC Chaser team. The boys are quick and imaginative in their endeavours to amuse television audiences. Asking them to sign a post-APEC good behaviour bond would only set their minds in overdrive. I therefore suggest that the New South Wales Government provide funding to get them out of Australia for the week. How about sending them to the Kalahari Desert to investigate humour in 45 degrees heat or to Russia for lessons on how to behave solemnly? Perhaps they could be sent to China and India, as Premier Iemma was before the recent Federal election to save Kevin Rudd from further embarrassment.
Quite. The Chaser provided the only moment of sanity of the entire APEC saga. It cannot be allowed to happen again.