The NSW Government's controversial Amendment to the World Youth Day Act is a dreadful interference with civil liberties, and contrary to the spirit of Catholic Social Teaching on human rights.
As an Australian Catholic lawyer, I am saddened that the state has seen fit to curtail civil liberties further in this instance than they have for other significant international events hosted in Sydney.
The president of the Bar Association, Anna Katzmann SC, has this to say in an SMH letter to the editor.
On its face this law threatens basic civil rights. Moreover, it is bad law to criminalize conduct by regulation and so avoid the level of parliamentary and public scrutiny that attends an act of parliament.
It seems that New South Wales is paying out around $86 million dollars for the dubious privilege of having our human rights extinguished in over 600 locations within the Sydney area for the entire period of World Youth Day events.
Will Morris Iemma pass the collection plate when (not if) this religious event fails to do more than break even financially? The hints that all may not be well are already surfacing in relation to 'pilgrim' numbers.
Last Monday The West Australian raised the possibility of a WYD backlash.
Australian Catholics are treated far more tolerantly today than they were 50 or 100 years ago. But the Church is pushing its luck. It now risks a backlash after the Catholic-dominated NSW Labor Government made it a criminal offence to do anything which “causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in World (Catholic) Youth Day”....
Unless he wants to resurrect sectarian tensions, Cardinal Pell should support the immediate repeal of the repressive new law and pay a much bigger share of the costs.
Somehow I think the damage has already been done if Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven's rant is any indication.
JUDGING by the fulminations in Sydney against World Youth Day, Benedict XVI may soon become the first pontiff in living memory to paraphrase Mae West. "Is that bigotry in your pocket, or are you just not glad to see me?"
The vice-chancellor likes to think of these draconian regulations as "an unsolicited gift from the State Government."
Sister Mary Clement would have put him in the naughty corner for playing with the truth in this way.