Thursday, December 13, 2007

Freedom '08

The Herald has an exclusive today about the New South Wales Government's plan to enact emergency laws during next years World Youth Day conference. Leaving aside the religious aspect, I have to say I'm getting a little sick of having my civil liberties periodically restricted just because I have the hide to live in a temperate, good-looking city. I'm all for encouraging tourism, but not if that entails John Watkins acting like Pervez Musharraf every time a big event comes to town. Emergency laws? Excuse me, but an appearance by a leading religious figure does not constitute an emergency.

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.


Diego Luego said...

This ties in with some of the stuff I have been writing, particularly "Arrested for resisting arrest".

We do need a "Bill of Rights" urgently at both state and federal levels.

Is John Watkins the Premier now? Morris really looks like he'd rather be somewhere else - anywhere else. I imagine he finds it hard to get up and go to work each day.

Lucy said...

Absolutely, about the Bill of Rights. I can't for the life of me work out why there is so much political opposition and so little public impetus for the idea.

You have to hand it to Watkins: It's quite impressive that he managed to out-Catholic the entire frontbench in order to make World Youth Day his baby. The NSW Government has more Catholics than the Vatican does.

The leadership/deputy leadership status is all very mysterious. I can't work out which is the rumour du jour. Is Caucus about to roll Iemma in favour of Premier Watkins, or is it about to roll Watkins in favour of Carmel Tebbutt? Who knows?

Watkins is, I think, very bright and quite witty - he has a touch of Bob Carr about him on the parliament floor. But Transport is a thankless portfolio in NSW, he has a largely undeserved reputation for being boring, and as the Herald pointed out yesterday his major political skill appears to be blame-shifting.

As for Iemma, he's been premier for over two years and I still can't work out what's driving him besides, you know, a lifelong ambition to be Premier. I think that sums up his problem.

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