Foreign invasion, yet lots of room at the inns


Damien Murphy | September 2, 2007

DISPLAYING the mercy of rulers from distant lands and distant times, the State Government will release people serving periodic detention in Sydney jails during the APEC forum in case prison beds are needed for protesters arrested if demonstrations turn violent.

Wags are saying that as Sydney’s hotels have heaps of room – especially the luxury end of the business – there was no need for the Government to have acted so hastily as the hotels could have been used as temporary accommodation for the miscreants.

Block bookings of rooms for APEC delegations that unexpectedly failed to appear have caused the oversupply of rooms. But accommodation in regional NSW has been nearly booked out as Sydneysiders plan to take advantage of the public holiday and head to the bush or coast.

Melbourne and the Gold and Sunshine coasts have also benefited from a sudden influx of bookings.

Two years ago Sydney hoteliers were contacted by the Federal Government and asked to reserve thousands of rooms for the summit.

But the expected 6000 delegates from the 21 APEC nations have not materialised. Instead, only about 4000 have said they are coming to town.

However, the NSW Tourism Minister, Matt Brown, looked on the bright side, saying bookings in regional NSW were up by 30 per cent, largely due to a promotional campaign.

"Encouraging residents to get out of the city … helps ease the pressure on Sydney, which will endure road closures and heightened security," he said.

However, the Americans are coming, big time.

The President, George Bush, will arrive with three jumbos – Air Force One, a back-up and another 747 for hangers-on – carrying more than 700 people, including the official party, presidential advisers and staff, medical staff, cooks and security, and journalists.

Then there are transport planes bringing in the presidential helicopter, Marine One, a backup, a fleet of motorcade vehicles including Secret Service Chevrolet Suburbans, an ambulance and … a back-up motorcade.

When the inaugural APEC meeting was staged in 1989, it was a much smaller world with delegates from the then 12 member nations enjoying a cosy late spring in Canberra.

APEC has since grown as if it were on steroids. Not only can Canberra not cope with the influx of leaders, delegates, staff, journalists and security workers but the fear of terrorism and globalisation have changed the way APEC operates.

The cost of this week’s forum is expected to top $330 million, of which $170 million will be spent on security, which includes 22 explosive detector dogs at $90,000 an animal, police checks on the 22,000 people involved in the event, which includes about 1500 media, local hospitality workers, as well as the Sydney Children’s Choir.

The State Government has also spent $600,000 on a water cannon.

Source: The Sun-Herald

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