Sunday, September 23, 2007

A quick question – Where were the last three APEC summits held?

If you couldn’t answer that question then just how well do you think Sydney’s hosting of the event will benefit the city over the next three years.

Remember how in the lead up we were promised that the inconvenience would be worth it because of the exposure Sydney would receive in the world of business and government events.

Comparisons were made to the Sydney Olympics regarding the traffic inconvenience and the thrill of having international visitors. The big difference though was that we were all invited to participate in the Olympic experience and if we couldn’t get to see an event we could still gather to watch it on big screens at the various Live Sites.

In contrast APEC was for an exclusive club and if the populus were to gather in any numbers they were surrounded by police. Just imagine how much more enjoyable it would have been for everyone if the Live Sites were set up again so that we could have gathered to enjoy the spectacle of George W praising our Prime Minister (over and over) and our Austrian troops in Iraq. And how enjoyable it would have been each night to watch Roy Slaven and HG Nelson do a wrap up of the days proceedings along with interviews with representatives from some of the lesser lights of the conference.

Surely the most outrageous act though was to not invite the taxpayers of Australia, who after all were paying for the whole shebang, to the harbour spectacular on the Saturday night. In fact the populus were specifically instructed to stay away and the spectacle on the water was never mentioned.

The Gala Cultural Performance in the Sydney Opera House was reserved for the APEC visitors and assorted Australians of note – as it should have been. But just maybe a concert paid for by our tax dollars could have been televised in order to make us feel a little more included, especially as that concert featured the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, TaikOz, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Christine Anu, Simon Tedeschi, The Australian Ballet and soloists from the Australian Opera.

The harbour fireworks associated with this concert were covered by the media but how many are aware that a complex and spectacular show was performed on the water. This involved a number of tall ships and 16 racing boats, all of which were lit up. The lighting on the racing boats in particular was quite impressive as the sails were lit with LED lamps with wireless DMX control (the first time these lamps have been used in Australia). The boats looked spectacular as the sails changed colour in unison and sequentially. A story on how this event was developed will be published in ASE shortly.

So now the APEC cavalcades are gone and traffic is back to the normal half hour or more to get from Sydney’s airport to the CBD. Fortunately The Chaser team managed to get some TV exposure for Sydney outside Australia.

And the last three APEC meetings? They were held in Ha Noi, Vietnam (2006); Busan, Korea (2005) and Santiago, Chile (2004).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Welcome to Country for APEC leaders

It is common practise for national and international conferences (whether corporate or government) to include a Welcome to Country by representatives of the local indigenous mob, so one would expect that an important meeting like APEC would include such a welcome. But no! Despite all the posturing by the Howard government over intervention into indigenous affairs no acknowledgement was made of the original owners of the land on which they met.

The chairman of the Metropolitan Land Council, Rob Welsh, told the Sydney Morning Herald that his organisation, which represents indigenous people in the central Sydney area, had not been asked to perform a single welcome to country, smoking ceremony or cultural performance during the week-long schedule of events.

"Normally we do welcomes for the Federal Government when they come to town. We've welcomed the Dalai Lama and the Queen here, but when 21 leaders come to the country, we're not being asked to be involved. Maybe it's in case we get up and say the wrong thing."

The two Aboriginal performances that were part of the APEC program featured dancers from Arnhem land at the national Maritime Museum and Bangarra (a contemporary dance company) at the Opera House bash.

This spray by Hamish McDonald in the Sydney Morning herald summed up Howard’s attitude.

Howard still singing the wrong song

PARDON ME for choking over the sheer effrontery of John Howard in one particular bit of his $330 million spend on the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation extravaganza.

Tonight he will be the genial host for other leaders and 750 handpicked guests for a 45-minute cultural miscellany of the Australian performing arts.

It will take its title from the contemporary classic song My Island Home, which will end the show, sung by Christine Anu leading the massed cast after a swirl of eerie didgeridoo music.

According to spokeswoman Anne Fulwood, the concert and accompanying fireworks are "a celebration of a confident nation rejoicing and proud of a wealth of talented performers that call the earth's largest island 'home' ".

Actually, the song My Island Home is a tribute to indigenous Australia, composed by the Whitefella songwriter Neil Murray shortly after staying with Aboriginal singer George Rrurrambu, of the Warumpi Band, at his home on Elcho Island, off Arnhem Land.

Christine Anu, born of Torres Strait Islander parents living in a crowded household in Cairns, made the definitive recording in 1995, winning the Song of the Year award.

To anyone who really listens, the song is meant to express to the rest of us Australians the pride and joy of the people in our maritime borders to the north. It is a song connecting us to the peoples of the close region around us.

Howard's appropriation of this song reflects the crassness that has characterised his government's dealings with the Pacific over the past decade and which continues through the APEC summit.

Monday, September 10, 2007

APEC policing and the tourist industry

Some years ago I was photographing a demonstration in Sydney. I cut through some back streets to get to the head of the demo and was surprised to come across a number of buses packed with police with riot gear at the ready. It was quite a hot day and the buses were not air conditioned. The occupants of these buses were mostly young and not looking happy.

It occurred to me at the time that if they had have been let loose on the protesters they would be ready to take out their frustrations for being cooped up for so long. Fortunately this protest was peaceful – noisy but peaceful.

I was reminded of this incident while watching news reports in the build up to APEC and I wondered just how the police would react to protesters after being pumped up by all the chest thumping by the politicians in the lead up.

So I read with interest comments by Dr Michael Kennedy, a former detective who teaches policing at the University of Western Sydney, who said politicians, not frontline police, should take the blame for any overreaction. "Young coppers who are pumped up and told to do their job are doing their job" he stated.

Certainly the police had to be prepared for trouble after the debacle in Melbourne last year (footage of which the media kept playing over and over again which helped reinforce the police/political position) but the APEC fence has now been proven to be incredibly over the top.

One would have to consider that the man arrested for throwing a dart at police and brandishing a steel bar rolled in a newspaper is nothing but a common thug who took advantage of the situation to play out his hatred of police. This was nothing to do with the protest nor with APEC and if the police intelligence was as good as they claimed why was this person, who is well known to police, not spotted and dealt with before he caused harm.

Re the police removing their nametags, the Police commissioner claimed that "The indications that I've got is that there are times when protesters have used these things in the past (as a weapon), and I would be horrified if police didn't take the right actions to protect themselves." The line-up of nameless police in the SMH shows them all wearing overalls – the nametags they should be wearing are made of cloth with a velcro backing – some weapon!

The bottom line is that the media images that were sent around the world were supposed to enhance Sydney’s reputation as a business tourism destination, but it would appear that the images that went out were of the fence, the police operation and the inconvenience caused by the whole shebang. Oh, and The Chaser of course.

So just how did it look to you?

Relevant media links

Fences, foes and farces: world view of APEC

With 21 leaders arriving for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the world's media already had one eye on Sydney this week.

Prison language describes a city

It is all very well for those who have escaped, but it has been a trying time for the rest, writes John Huxley.

Close encounter with cell on wheels

CITY office worker Tom Godfrey had a close encounter with one of the buses the Government has converted into mobile prison cells for protesters arrested during this week's meeting of world leaders.

APEC's surprise guest - Mr bin Laden of Canada

IF ONLY the police had stopped to read the fine print on the "APEC 2007 Official Vehicle" sticker.

APEC pranksters say police gave them permission

The Chaser pranksters charged for breaching APEC security with a bogus motorcade that came close to George Bush's hotel say police gave them permission.

APEC dents Sydney's tourism image

Australia's tourism industry has slammed the image that Sydney's APEC summit has sent to the world.

Harsh security 'hurt business'

Sydney CBD restaurants and retailers say the "police state" security measures of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit hurt their businesses badly over the APEC long weekend.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Equine Flu effects on the Event Industry

From Greg Coffey
Events Coordinator, Sydney International Equestrian Centre

As someone who is involved in the equine industry (venue related) how has the Equine Influenza outbreak affected you? We have virtually shut down. All events for September & October have been postponed - that alone is in the vicinity of $100k.

Of course the govt is missing out on taxes from TAB etc but another thing to consider is that all those "recreational" horse owners and those in equine competition, "performance" horses, are suddenly grounded. Now take into account that all these horse folk own 4WD's, 6 cylinders, V8's, F250's or trucks to move their horses around the state or country. Now that they are at a standstill that means they are not buying fuel for their vehicles - no taxes on fuel for the govt. It is the tip of the iceberg as far as impact is concerned.

I heard from a contractor yesterday who told me he had been contacted by a plant nursery and was asked if he wanted to buy a semi trailer load of annuals - these flowers had been purpose grown for Randwick Racecourse for the Spring Carnival. They no longer require them. The local nursery is hardly a $1m business - that will hit this guy really hard.

What about the hire car and taxi industry... you get my drift here. So over to you - how has the outbreak affected you?