Why all the fuss with World Youth Day?

1 Jul

It appears that World Youth Day (WYD) is mirroring the heavy security situation that the people of Sydney is expected to endure during APEC.

The latest furore over WYD are the new or amended regulations which will give police extra powers to ‘arrest and fine people for “causing annoyance” to World Youth Day participants and permit partial strip searches at hundreds of Sydney sites, beginning today (1 July 2008)’. To read in detail on the new regulations, you can download the 51- page copy of the gazette at the NSW Bar Association website. It includes a hefty 40- page listing of areas affected.

Critics have argued that the new discretionary powers to be in force for WYD are an affront to freedom of speech as it has ‘the potential to make a crime of wearing a T-shirt with a message on it, undertaking a Chaser-style stunt, handing out condoms at protests, riding a skateboard or even playing music’. Those who refuse to comply can be expected to be fined up to $5500 fine.

The NSW Bar Association and Greens MP Lee Rhiannon have also condemned the regulations as excessive and unnecessary. The latter have said that these new regulations are meant to stifle protests ‘and quarantining the Pope and visiting Catholics away from messages World Youth Day authorities don’t approve of”. The President of the NSW Bar Association, Anna Katzmann SC, also argued that ‘It is difficult to understand the need for, let alone the wisdom of, such a law’. In the organisation’s press release, it also stated that ‘Creating a criminal offence by regulation bypasses the same level of parliamentary and public scrutiny that would be given to an Act of parliament’.

This was in addition to the previous controversies that have erupted since WYD was scheduled to be held in Sydney.

According to an earlier Sydney Morning Herald Report, the Deputy Premier and Minister for World Youth Day, John Watkins, superseded the governance of City of Sydney Council and quietly ordered major changes to traffic as well as the removal of trees at the end of Parkham Street in Surry Hills. The purpose of uprooting the trees – so that pilgrims can walk unobstructed.

According to Central, a local news magazine, an article entitled ‘Youth Day Disruptions Anger Locals, ‘councillors and residents are up in arms over the news…’. The residents interviewed were upset at the decision. One of those interviewed, Mr Park was quoted as saying that it is a ‘nightmare’ while a shop owner in the vicinity, Cito Cessna, summed it up best when he said, “It’s also the no consultation and not speaking to us, and not knowing what else they are going to do” .

Thankfully, trees have now been saved after ‘community outrage’. A compromise, according to a later Central article, ‘Catholics spare the trees’ (note the irony) revealed that ‘only small shrubs and plantings will be removed’ after a meeting between the Council and WYD organisers.

Another major controversy on WYD are its expenses which has been paid for by taxpayer’s money.  Lee Rhiannon has asked for the ‘release of the draft agreement between the NSW government and the Catholic Church which set out responsibilities for the costs of World Youth Day, to allow the community to debate the merits of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money being spent on the event’. She also urged the Iemma government to adjust the expenditures given the hotel industry has warned of lower than an expected turn out.

The storms caused by WYD has thrown up three questions which have yet been left unanswered.

First, why should the money of taxpayers be used to hold an event which is clearly meant to promote the interests of a particular religious group?

Second, the lack of consultation with the community stakeholders. This can be seen from the legislations with regards to traffic and increased police powers to prevent “annoyance”. Both sets of regulations were passed ‘quietly’ until the media alerted the public to such legislations.

Third, the new regulations appear to contravene or violate the people’s right to peaceful protest.

At the end of the day, WYD appears to be a lot of unnecessary  and expensive work just because one man – the Pope, is to visit Sydney. It seems that whenever a controversial figure, such as George Bush decides to visit the city, the government deems it neccessary to prevent peaceful protests.

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7 Responses to “Why all the fuss with World Youth Day?”

  1. Ken Lovell July 2, 2008 at 7:45 am #

    I think it’s even worse than you suggest Charles; the government has been actively promoting the event (which would more accurately be called ‘World Youth Week’ ) for months. Clearly the close links between the right wing of the ALP and the Catholic Church are as strong as ever and Iemma’s mob see this as an extension of their routine political activities.

    If you’ve never had the chance, read ‘The Power and the Glory’ by Frank Hardy for insights into the way the church and Labor (and organised crime) have been one big happy family for more than 100 years.

  2. Ken Lovell July 2, 2008 at 7:48 am #

    The random smiley was not my doing 🙂

  3. joni July 2, 2008 at 12:37 pm #

    Ken – I have tidied the extra smiley up.

    And I agree with your assessment. As I said on blogocracy, I have decided that I will:

    – wear a pink shirt for the duration of WYD
    – kiss the boyf whenever we see a WYD participant
    – hold hands whenever walking on the street for the duration

    Simple and effective protests.

  4. Roger July 2, 2008 at 3:39 pm #

    Having just returned to Australia, More and more, I realise why i love to leave it as often as I can. By the way, we should pray for rain for the entire duration of the event 🙂

  5. James Black July 25, 2008 at 2:44 pm #

    The Begone moths of World Catholic Youth Week

    They behaved, at times, like unruly kindergarten kids, and at other times they swarmed like moths with bright yellow and orange-coloured wings on their backs, spilling out of doorways singing “a cappella” hymns and ditties, or jumping suddenly from a bush or from behind trees chanting snippets of Christian dogma or invading train carriages with their persistent sing-song demeanour, further wearying workers, bemused retirees and over-tired children.

    Like their cousins the Bogong Moths, see http://www.csiro.au/resources/BogongMoths.html, they caused numerous inconveniences to humans of other faiths and non-beliefs. Indeed, in 1865, it is reported that Bogong moths invaded a church in Sydney, causing a service to be abandoned.

    It beggars belief that the Iemma Government should attempt to outlaw “offensively” worded tee-shirt slogans, and “unchristian” taunts, when the whole papal offensive was an affront to the majority of Australians.

    Begone, I say begone.

  6. Br Jordan July 26, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    Well the World youth Day week is over.

    No Rain
    Almost all that attended enjoyed themselves
    Very few protesters made an impact

    A great success

    Did you think you would distroy world youth day with your Protest and handing out of Condoms?

    Think again !

    God Bless you

  7. joni July 27, 2008 at 7:39 am #

    You miss the point really. It was never about destroying world youth day. It was about highlighting the stance by the church (not the pilgrims) on condoms and their hatred of gay relationships.

    And I do notice that a prominent group of catholics has urged the church to change it’s stance on the use of condoms, so maybe we did have an effect after all.

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