|APEC Australia 2007|
APEC Australia 2007 was composed of a series of political meetings held around Australia between the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. These meetings culminated in Leaders Week, where the heads of government of each member economy attended Sydney, New South Wales from 2 to 9 September, 2007. The New South Wales government declared September 7 a public holiday that encompassed the Sydney metropolitan area, including Penrith, Camden and Campbelltown, so that people would be kept away from the inner city "to assist with the smooth operation of the APEC event".
Overall security planning was overseen by the Protective Security Coordination Centre (PSCC) of the National Security and Criminal Justice Group from the Attorney-General's Department, through the establishment of an APEC 2007 Security Branch (ASB). The PSCC performed a similar role for the 2006 Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne.
At state level, the New South Wales Police Force formed an APEC Police Security Command (APSC) to secure the Leaders Week meetings in Sydney in September.
A giant illuminated APEC Australia 2007 logo was affixed to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a fireworks display occurred on Saturday night. It had previously been announced that the spouses of the political leaders would attend an event at Bondi Beach. Animals from Taronga Zoo were shipped to Garden Island to create a private zoo for APEC spouses.
International news media reported on an otherwise routine introduction speech by US President Bush due to several gaffes. He accidentally referred to APEC as "OPEC", but seemed to recover and turned it into a joke; when thanking the Australian Defence Force for its cooperation, he used the phrase "Austrian troops"; and finally he appeared to exit the stage in the wrong direction.
The APEC conference has been widely criticised for having severe security arrangements, which resulted in roads closed without sufficient warning as leaders and their motorcades travelled around the city. Some Sydneysiders also feared similar disruptions to those experienced during the visit by US Vice President Dick Cheney which caused massive transport disruptions, including the closure of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Nearly all businesses, offices, schools and certain retailers closed on the day, in order to keep most residents at home. Many complaints came from employers about the unnecessary disruption of work which came at a cost.
Civil liberties and political groups were also concerned about changes to NSW law enacted for the APEC conference giving the NSW Police Force new powers, including a suspension of the normal function of habeas corpus, freedom of movement, an excluded persons blacklist and other civil liberties. Police and security forces had also erected a security perimeter around much of inner city Sydney for the APEC leaders summit. Another point of criticism is the cost of security for the event with official budget figures at AU$169 million. New South Wales Police Minister David Campbell justified the strong security presence and curtailment of civil liberties on the fear of 'violent protest' from the Mutiny collective, and other protest groups.
There was also criticism of the alleged heavy handed response to some incidents by the NSW Police Force. In one case, for example, a 52-year-old accountant who crossed a road in front of an official motorcade while on his way to lunch with his son was arrested and detained for 22 hours.
A year after the APEC conference, the Sydney Morning Herald gained access through Freedom of Information to the list of people on the excluded persons list. This revealed that 61 people were on the list, more than double the 29 people the police had said during APEC. The list included student activists, 12 members of Mutiny and 13 Greenpeace Activists. Stephen Blanks, from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said "These are people that the police just found embarrassing and they were arrogant enough to think they could just outlaw them,"
On 6 September 2007, eleven cast and crew of the Australian satirical TV comedy series, The Chaser's War on Everything including executive producer Julian Morrow and Chas Licciardello, were detained by police outside the InterContinental Hotel after driving a fake motorcade through the Sydney central business district and breaching an APEC security zone.
The group breached the secure area by masquerading as the motorcade of the Canadian delegation to APEC. Police only realised that the motorcade was a hoax when Chas Licciardello, dressed as Osama bin Laden, stepped out of an official-looking car replete with a Canadian flag flying from the bonnet, outside the hotel, where U.S. President George W. Bush was staying. They were subsequently detained at Surry Hills Police Station for questioning, and charged with "entering a restricted zone without justification" under the APEC Meeting (Police Powers) Act 2007.
Licciardello, Morrow and nine other members of the production team were released on bail, to appear in court on 4 October 2007. The incident led to criticisms of the event's security, and the security of APEC restricted areas. Their forged security passes contained the printed phrase "It's pretty obvious this isn't a real pass" above the photograph and "JOKE" next to it. On 28 April 2008 the charges against all eleven members were dropped by the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions (DOPP) as it was considered that the police gave "tacit" permission for the group to enter the restricted zone by failing to identify the fake security badges.
The following day, more members of The Chaser team (except for Morrow and Licciardello who were required by police to stay away from APEC security areas) conducted a further stunt, this time dressing up as a line of black limousines made from cardboard. Police detained and questioned them but, as they were outside the exclusion zone, no arrests were made.
On Tuesday the 18th of September, the inquiry cleared all officers of wrongdoing as the name tags 'compromised safety' of the officers.