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Socialists call for defiance of anti-democratic pope visit laws

The Socialist Alliance today called on all people wanting to show their concern about the positions of Pope Benedict XIV on issues like same sex-marriage, condom use and abortion to collectively ignore the New South Wales government’s new powers to arrest and fine people up to $5500 for “causing annoyance” to World Youth Day participants. (The new regulations, which were quietly gazetted by deputy premier John Watkins last Friday, could make it a crime to wear a t-shirt with an anti-papal message and empower police and volunteers with the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service to stop a person engaging in conduct which “causes annoyance or inconvenience in a World Youth Day event”.)

“The Iemma government has lost it”, Dick Nichols, the Socialist Alliance National Coordinator said. “Faced with a peaceful July 19 protest against Pope Benedict’s mediaeval positions on issues like condom use, the ministerial clique in Macquarie Street has introduced laws that would be laughable if they weren’t such a violation of civil liberties.

Pic: Socialist Alliance member Rachel Evans is one of the main organisers of the NoToPope Coalition protest during the pope visit

“The laws give police the right to ban propaganda and strip-search people at hundreds of sites across the city, including at bus stops and train stations, checking to see if they are wearing an ‘offensive’ t-shirt.

“With their draconian regulations Iemma and Co. have decided to prevent the possibility of a Chaser-style stunt against the Pope by becoming a permanent Chaser skit themselves”, he said.

“These rules were deliberately gazetted while the parliament wasn’t sitting, stifling debate and removing parliament’s right to block them. So let’s all get those t-shirts out that proclaim our support for women’s rights, same-sex marriage and safe sex,” Nichols stated. “And then let Iemma and Co. try to apply their buffoonish laws against us.”

Nichols commented that the Iemma government was showing “weird” similarities to the autocratic and unanswerable papacy.

“Not content with pushing ahead with an electricity privatisation plan opposed by 80% of people in New South Wales Iemma’s comedy team has now introduced regulations opposed by 89% of respondents to an online Sydney Morning Herald poll.

“It is also spending around $86 million to support World Youth Day: whatever happened to the separation of church and state?”

The Socialist Alliance spokesperson predicted that “just like the heavy-handed police powers introduced in the lead up to APEC last year to intimidate people out of protesting, Iemma’s latest effort will have exactly the opposite effect to its intention. “Most rational people, including many Catholics, are opposed to the dangerous and antiquated policies of the Catholic hierarchy on condom use, abortion and homophobia. Now the Iemma government has attacked their freedom of expression they have a powerful additional motive to join the July 19 NoToPope protest”, he concluded.

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