Sydney enacts strict laws for World Youth Day

Sydney, Australia, Dec 13, 2007 / 12:09 pm (CNA) .- Strict emergency laws will be in force during the World Youth Day events in 2008, tightening security and banning unapproved advertisements near event venues, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Under the World Youth Day Amendment Bill, passed last week by the State Parliament of New South Wales, authorities will have the power to conduct body searches, confiscate vehicles, and evict people from World Youth Day events.  The law permits private buses to be commandeered to transport pilgrims, while police and other officials will even have control of air space and unauthorized advertising.

The laws restricting advertising protects commercial agreements between the Church and event sponsors by restricting advertising around World Youth Day venues.  Similar restrictions were in place for the 2000 Olympics and the Grand Prix in Victoria.

The new laws will be administered by the specially created World Youth Day Coordination Authority, which is not affiliated with the Catholic Church.  Under the law, this authority and its minister, Deputy Premier John Watkins, is supreme and cannot be "challenged, reviewed quashed or called into question" in court.

The Australian Parliament’s Legislative Review Committee has warned about the authority’s potential for injustice.  It specifically criticized the increased application of body and property searches an "inappropriate delegation of legislative power."

A spokesman for the World Youth Day Co-ordination Authority said: "A decision about who will be provided with this authority has not yet been determined but [those officials] will be kept to a minimum and be fully disclosed by regulation."

Green Party minister of parliament Lee Rhiannon voted for the bill but said it was "a step too far."  Shee thought the government’s plans to censor advertising were made to help the Church fulfill agreements with commercial sponsors, which she called “staggering.”