The Null Device
Do not annoy the Catholics: $5,500 fine
If you break the law, the law will break you:
The fabled Australian commitment to free speech, civil liberties and the right of peaceful dissent is once again in the news, as the New South Wales government announced that anyone annoying those attending the Catholic Church's "World Youth Day" may face criminal penalties
Police and emergency services will have the power to order people to cease behaviour that "causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event" under the regulations. Anyone who fails to comply could be fined A$5,500 (£2,630).
Anna Katzman, the president of the New South Wales bar association, which represents almost 3,000 lawyers, said it was "unnecessary and repugnant" to make someone's inconvenience the basis of a criminal offence. "If I was to wear a T-shirt proclaiming that 'World Youth Day is a waste of public money' and refuse to remove it when an officer ... asks me to, I would commit a criminal offence," Katzman said. "How ridiculous is that?"
This is possible under laws related to those used for suspending civil liberties during the 2000 Olympics, and could criminalise planned protests by gay rights, student and secularist groups.
Not to worry, though; the authorities have given their word that these sweeping powers will be exercised reasonably.
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