Friday, May 18, 2007

Army Will Be Deployed To Streets Of Sydney For APEC Conference

City Centre To Become Mini-Police State For Up To Two Weeks

Random Body Searches And Detentions Without Charge

For up to two weeks in September, a huge area of Sydney's central business district, and tourist shopping mecca, will be blockaded by hundreds of police, security guards and Australia's military. Soldiers, armed with assault rifles, will allegedly be given "shoot to kill" rules of engagement to deal with security threats.

Black Hawk helicopters will patrol the skies, snipers will be positioned on the rooftops of some of Sydney's landmark buildings, train stations will be closed down and checkpoints will screen each and every person who tries to enter 'The Zone'.

In a quick series of announcements earlier this week, the state and federal government unveiled the first slab of details revealing just how severe the ultra-security will be when more than 20 world leaders, including Presidents Bush and Putin, descend on Sydney for the APEC summit in September this year.

The publicly released plans read like scenarios culled of the Orwellian police state portrayed in the movie 'V For Vendetta', and Sydneysiders are already expressing their anger and frustration at an event that they know will paralyse the city centre, while they still have to go to work and try to live their lives.

While news that Australian soldiers carrying assault rifles will be patrolling the streets of Sydney was jaw-dropping enough, we've also now learned that special legislation will be introduced, allowed under anti-terror laws, to allow police to pull people they deem to be a possible security threat off the street and detainee them without charge, for days at a time. Other Sydneysiders can look forward to the possibility of being subjected to random full body searches :

...a giant security triangle will envelop an area marked by the Sydney Opera House, Government House and the Sydney Convention Centre.

The corridor to Sydney Airport is also expected to be a declared search zone.

People who venture into the areas will be subject to random body searches during the seven-day conference, with security peaking from September 7-9 when 21 world leaders arrive to Sydney.

Additional legislation will also be introduced to allow security agencies from foreign governments to enforce their own security arrangements while in Australia, News Limited reports.

Bizarrely, the New South Wales premier, Morris Iemma, spun out a fantastic fantasy about how good the APEC summit will be for promoting Sydney internationally as a tourist destination.

Yeah, if your idea of a tourist destination is a place where the streets are locked down by armed checkpoints, where military patrols roam freely and the sky is criss-crossed by thundering Black Hawk helicopters :

Prime Minister John Howard and New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma met today to discuss transport and security for the meeting of 21 world leaders, including US President George W Bush.

The (security) measures mean three city circle train stations – St James, Museum and Circular Quay – will be closed for three days from the Friday, which will be a public holiday in Sydney.

Many other measures have yet to be made public, but other areas of the city centre will also become restricted zones and heavy security will be in place at a number of hotels.

The Sydney Opera House, Government House and the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre will be the key APEC venues.

Mr Howard and Mr Iemma said they hoped the Sydney Harbour Bridge would remain open and that disruptions on the Cahill Expressway, leading to the bridge, would be minimal.

"Some disruption is unavoidable; the only way you avoid disruption is to say that Sydney is closed for business as far as major international gatherings are concerned," Mr Howard said.

"We intend it to be a great weekend for Sydney and Australia and it will be ... both being Sydney boys, we intend to make sure it works."

Mr Iemma said Sydney would gain economically from hosting the summit and from worldwide exposure.

He said during the three days of the event Sydneysiders should attempt to live their lives as normal, but be wary of the closures and lockdowns.

"It's a balance between ensuring a successful conference, a successful gathering and ensuring the safety and security of those who will be participating," Mr Iemma said.

"And at the same time to minimise inconvenience and disruption."

This level of security is moving beyond the absurd, and is an affront to rights of Sydneysiders to move freely about their city.

Here's an idea : choose one of the dozens of isolated island resorts off Australia's east coast, rent the whole thing for a week, deploy the Navy, establish a security zone around the island and hold the APEC conference there.

It's remarkable to think that John Howard thinks APEC will stand as the jewel in the crown of his 11 year long stretch as the leader of Australia.

With free citizens being randomly selected for full body searches, or snatched off the streets of the city and bundled into vans and then held without charge, not to forget the weeks of 'rehearsals' where Black Hawk helicopters will buzz Sydney and its suburbs with thundering flights just above the tree tops, and 'persons of interests' being hauled in for questioning, Sydneysiders are going to get a full-scale taste of what it's like to live in a mini-police state.

The only Sydneysiders looking forward to the APEC summit, and all the delays, hassles and rights violations that will result, are the prime minister and the premier.

Of course, neither of them have to worry about being stuck in gridlock for hours at a time, while fleets of police-escorted presidential motorcades plough through the city centre, as they can always hide away in the back of a speeding ambulance to get to where they want to go. It wouldn't be the first time either of them have beat the gridlock using this method. Solely for "security reasons" of course.

UPDATE : No doubt one of the key security concerns now plaguing the minds of those who must ensure the safety of visiting presidents is the fact that six or more anti-tank rocket launchers, stolen from an Army barracks last year, are still missing.

Go Here For More On The Lost Rocket Launchers