New South Wales has taken another step towards becoming a police state. Last week, special legislation was passed to give police additional powers for the upcoming Papal visit for World Youth Day. The legislation also sets up the World Youth Day Co-ordination Authority to administer the laws which provide for wide ranging control over a number of issues from airspace to advertising.
I think most people would accept the introduction of reasonable measures to ensure the safety of the Pope and the community, along with facilitating the smooth running of what will be a massive event. But it seems that the legislation goes beyond reasonable measures. It’s all very well to temporarily give police greater powers of search and seizure, but the new law goes much further.
This legislation delegates power from the Parliament to the Government so that significant matters such as police powers can be adjusted by regulation, not legislation. Further it provides for an unprecedented level of autonomy for the both the Co-ordinating Authority and the Minister to whom it reports. That Minister is the Deputy Premier John Watkins. According to the legislation the authority of the Co-ordinating Authority and the Minister cannot be “challenged, reviewed, quashed, or called into question” in court. In other words, absolute supreme power is in the hands of the Minister, and if anyone believes that the co-ordinating Authority has acted unjustly there is no recourse to the courts.
To remove all judicial oversight of these arrangements is an abrogation of the normal democratic rights we take for granted in a free society. It doesn’t matter who the minister is, the concentration of all power on one desk is contrary to the principles of parliamentary democracy. If the police and other authorities do their jobs properly, they have no need of protection from being challenged in the courts. This legislation is authoritarian, and almost totalitarian, and it does not improve the standard of security provided to the Pope or the community.