A column about APEC

It’s still a few weeks away, but I’m already over APEC. Whenever I’m in the city, scary-looking helicopters fly noisily overhead, and then there are those annoying ads everywhere. I can’t believe that this stupid summit has given the Federal Government yet another reason to waste money on expensive advertisements.

Preparations are well underway. And I must single out CityRail, who have done a wonderful job of preparing us for APEC by gradually lowering our expectations over the last few years. When they shut down several of the city’s train stations for the summit, most of us probably won’t even notice.

Originally, APEC seemed like a sweet deal, because we were going to be compensated for the inconvenience with a bonus public holiday. And I’m always happy to be bribed with vacations. But unfortunately that benefit is just about to be cancelled out, because President Bush has just announced he’s coming early. He’s coming early to spend some quality time hangin’ with his homie John Howard, probably for the last time while they’re both still in office. And I guess it’s understandable – our beloved PM is just about the only buddy he’s got left.

But the upshot of the earlier visit is that all the security plans have been thrown into turmoil and, according to some reports, costing us taxpayers millions of dollars in extra security. Thanks to the earlier visit, we’ll all have to put up with pretty much a whole week of massive interruptions, just to accommodate a world leader that most of us – and also most of America, by now – wish had never taken office.

When he arrives, we’re all going to get that annoyed feeling you get when an unwelcome relative comes to stay, and everyone has to shift bedrooms. Only this particular annoying relative is so important that anywhere he needs to go, there’s a massive motorcade, and hundreds of Secret Service agents and even snipers on the surrounding rooftops. Honestly, President Bush’s visit would be a massive hassle and inconvenience even if we liked the guy.

Is all of this security really necessary? Honestly, can’t the guy take his chances? It’s not like they’d be assassinating the real President – as always, Dick Cheney will be secure in his undisclosed location.

Bush is making his social visit a few days early because he has to return to the White House before the end of APEC in order to prepare for the progress report in Iraq. Well, how about I save us Sydneysiders a whole lot of hassle, and give the President his report a few weeks early? Iraq is a debacle. You were wrong. There. Now, Mr President, would you mind leaving us in peace for those extra few days? I’m sure that you and John have a lot to commiserate about – poor approval ratings, electoral disasters and tainted legacies for starters – but can’t he come and stay at your ranch after he loses office or something?

I know the President won’t be inconveniencing us quite as much as he has the residents of Baghdad, for instance, but they are going to fill our city with cement barriers, creating a Green Zone around the Opera House and the rest of the “APEC Precinct”. (Let’s hope this one is better at keeping out bombs than the Baghdad version.) Military personnel will be everywhere, and the police will be allowed to search anyone. You can expect they’ll give those wonderful new arbitrary arrest powers a really thorough workout as well. By the end of the weekend, there will in all likelihood be dozens of new Dr Haneefs to be locked up all over the city.

Quite apart from all the delays and other inconveniences, the security presence sounds like it’s going to make it genuinely scary to travel around the city during APEC. I think I’m going to spend the long weekend in a more tranquil, relaxed city. Beirut, perhaps?

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