The NSW police have been given additional powers during the World Youth Day festivities to arrest and fine people for "causing annoyance" to participants or as they are more frequently called pilgrims! These powers include a power to search and the power is based on the mere belief that someone is causing annoyance.
As Anna Katzmann SC, President of the NSW Bar Association, points out, there are already laws on the NSW Statute Books which regulate behaviour and police powers at large events like New Year's Eve on Sydney Harbour which attracts up to a million visitors or more. These regulations seem to work well enough at other events so what is different this time around?
Under the new powers if I was to hold up a sign that read "the Pope allows pedophilia" then I have committed an offence and can be arrested and fined. Where is my right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Simply, if I wanted to hold up a poster that said "Kevin Rudd is a wanker" then I am entitled to do so and I would not be arrested. So, why does the Pope get special treatment? Is it because he is Catholic? or the Special Emissary of God?
The special powers granted to police also allow them to conduct searches in designated areas that may require people to remove jackets, gloves, shoes, and head wear, as well as offer up any bags for a police search.
It is not surprising that the NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, is in favour of the new powers. He even goes so far as to say that they are not really new powers but the extension of already existing powers. So, really they are new powers after all. This seems to me like the NSW Police have thought all their Christmases have come at once as this is the perfect ruse to clamp down on protests and protesters.
The powers are draconian and seem only to have been put into place so that visiting Catholics and the Pope think that all Sydney-siders are for this little love fest. I wonder if NSW would be going to the same lengths to appease organizers if this event were some kind of Jewish, Protestant, or Muslim love fest?