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Monday, 10 September 2007
Page: 31


Senator BOB BROWN (Leader of the Australian Greens) (2:50 PM) —My question is to Senator Minchin. I ask: why on earth did this grim Howard government contrive to turn sunny Sydney into ‘sad city’ while the world watched on over APEC? I ask: what is the response to the tourism industry’s Christopher Brown, who said today:

Empty streets with concrete barriers, high fences and riot squad officers, snipers in buildings and helicopters. We just got out of control ... we just didn’t get the balance right between the imagery and security. It was not the image we should send to the world and I can understand completely why those from the tourism industry, who had thousands of rooms given back and who had no customers for the period in the city ... that there would be a concern today.

What was the cost to the tourism industry of the excess above necessary security? I ask the minister: what gong will this government give to The Chaser for pricking the bubble of grimness the government put over APEC and for giving the world a bit of a laugh?


Senator MINCHIN (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —It must be appalling to be Senator Brown; he has such a gloomy view of the world. Everything is awful. Everything is terrible. Through you, Mr President: I do not know how you cope with that, Senator Brown. How you get up every morning, I do not know, to face this gloomy, dreadful world that you keep coming in here to tell us all about. I just do not know how you do it.

The reality is that Australia was honoured to be asked to host APEC this year. We have hosted an extraordinarily successful APEC. Yes, it had to be held in Sydney. There was a view that it might be nice if it could be held in Canberra, and there was some logic to that, but that was deemed not possible because there was simply not the commercial accommodation available for it to be held in Canberra. Therefore, it was decided, in cooperation with the—


Senator Chris Evans —What was wrong with Adelaide?


Senator MINCHIN —Yes, Adelaide might have been a good venue—I agree, Senator. It would have been lovely to have had it in Adelaide, but it was deemed that it would be a good idea to have it in Sydney because Sydney—and I speak as someone brought up in Sydney—is, I would have to say, our most beautiful city. It was an opportunity to showcase that great city to the world, with great respect to my Melbourne friends—


Senator Chris Evans —And Adelaide constituents!


Senator MINCHIN —Even my Adelaide constituents would consider that Sydney Harbour is better than Adelaide harbour, and it was an opportunity to showcase that great harbour to the world. Just as in the Sydney Olympics the whole world saw what a magnificent city Sydney is, through APEC the whole world has seen what a fabulous city Sydney is. I dare say that the tourism industry, having reaped a harvest from the Sydney Olympics, will now reap a harvest of tourism dollars from the fact that Sydney has received such extraordinary advertising—and I dare say, now that you have mentioned it, that The Chaser played some part in giving enormous publicity to Sydney through its particular activities at the Sydney APEC meeting.

I think Senator Brown should acknowledge the great opportunity that APEC provided for Australia. It is a great pity that meetings of this kind involving some 21 world leaders, leaders of three or four of the biggest countries on earth, the biggest economies on earth—such as China and Russia—regrettably have to be surrounded by inordinate security. I can say, as Minister for Finance and Administration, that I hate having to pay those bills. But the fact is that all these leaders are under threat. We do live in a much more dangerous world than any of us would like. There is terrorism abroad. All of these leaders face threats in their everyday lives. It is sad that the United States President, on the advice of his security delegation, has to get into a convoy to go 200 metres—that he cannot walk. That is a great pity, but I am afraid that that is the sort of world we live in and therefore inordinate security, regrettably, is required for these leaders to gather. But woe betide the world where leaders of this kind cannot meet together.

It is fabulous that leaders of these major nations, representing the APEC economies, can meet together in the great city of Sydney in the great country of Australia and discuss the very significant issues that face our region, from climate change to free trade, to security, to developing our economies, to increasing the prosperity of the peoples of the Asia-Pacific region. So I congratulate both the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales on their hosting of this great meeting and on the fact that they were able to gather together such significant world leaders and achieve such great outcomes for this country and the whole region.


Senator BOB BROWN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to the Sunday Telegraph headline a week before APEC saying ‘Chaser planning APEC arrests’. I quote from that article:

Chaser member Julian Morrow told The Sunday Telegraph he was expecting his team to be arrested.

“We want to get a working majority arrested ...

“At this stage I think we’re on target.

“We’re hoping at least three ... will be arrested.”

The Chaser said:

“We have every right to be there ...

“I think ... the idea that politicians should be protected from scrutiny is a bad idea and that they should be protected from mockery is an even worse idea.”

I ask: how on earth did The Chaser, with such forewarning, get so far? Do ASIO read the Sunday Telegraph, the paper with the biggest circulation in Australia, and, if not, can the minister send them a subscription?


Senator MINCHIN (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I think all fair-minded Australians delight in The Chaser every week. As Foreign Minister Downer said, it is their goal in life to humiliate as many people as they possibly can. It is very regrettable that The Chaser team surprised themselves by getting past two roadblocks and finding themselves outside the hotel accommodating the President of the United States. On the other hand, I think it needs to be said that The Chaser team would have been well advised to stop well short of the final destination they reached, because their own lives were put at risk by the actions they took and the lives of others were potentially put at risk by the actions they took.

The question of the security breach is of course a matter for the New South Wales Police, who will no doubt be reviewing their security practices. The fact is that this matter is now potentially before the courts, and it would be inappropriate for me to say too much. I think we should all acknowledge The Chaser team but note the risks they took in what they did. (Time expired)