Anti-protest APEC laws to be made permanent


The NSW state government is introducing police powers similar to those during the APEC meeting in Sydney in 2007.

The Major Events Bill was introduced on September 10 in the Legislative Assembly. The bill proposes a whole range of powers for "major events". The minister administering the act is able to sign off on what is (and is not) a major event.

It will then be possible for anti-protest police powers to be introduced without proper parliamentary and political scrutiny.

Once a major event has been declared — for example, a speech by the Iraqi president at Sydney Town Hall — then the town hall itself, as well as a large swathe of land around it, could be declared a "major event venue".

The venue can be any size, as long as the minister is satisfied, supposedly on public interest grounds.

Within such a venue, it would be possible to close off roads without notice, forbid the selling of items (such as Green Left Weekly), prohibit loudspeakers and the possession of a laundry list of other items to be decided by regulation.

Although many of the restrictions seem commonsense, such as channeling traffic or stopping scalpers selling tickets, it also creates a protest-free zone.

"Categories of persons" may be prohibited from entering a major event venue. A failure to leave when directed would be punishable by a fine of $5100.

There is no provision for protests to take place nearby in the case of political events. Political demonstrations or protests themselves may not be declared major events. However, it is within the minister's discretion to decide how big a "venue" can be and the distance protesters may be forced to go to be "outside" the venue.

Breaches of the act are to be dealt with by penalty notices, under which a person is encouraged to pay a fine (without having the evidence tested against them) or go to court, and risk a criminal conviction and higher penalties.

The bill was due to be discussed in NSW parliament from September 14.

A copy of the bill can be found here