On Friday May 2, the organisers of the Brisbane G20 provided a moderately well attended community information forum at Brisbane Town Hall. Bernadette Welch head of operations from the Department Premier Cabinet, Terry Crane, Executive Director of the G20 state coordination unit in the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and Peter Rule, Executive Manager for the Coordination Unit with the Brisbane City Council, were at pains to sell the positive benefits of the G20.
The G20 summit will be held in Brisbane on the 15th and 16th of November and it is expected that as well as the leaders of the 25 most influential economies, it will attract 4000 delegates and some 3000 media.
In addition to the immediate benefits to accommodation and hospitality businesses, the organisers anticipate some long-term benefits for Brisbane due to the enormous amount of publicity it will generate. According to Peter Rule, for that one weekend in November 2014, Brisbane will be the “capital city of the world”.
So, on the plus side they told the audience that parts of the CBD are getting a facelift: you can already see the work being done in Queen Street for example; and free Wi-Fi in the mall and in other areas of the city will be an ongoing legacy of the event.
To make the event more attractive for us locals, and to showcase the arts in Brisbane, associated cultural events are planned. What’s not clear, with the projected transport and access restrictions, is just who will be able to attend these events.
A number of audience members showed up to hear more about the summit volunteer program. The program is looking for up to 700 members of the public to provide assistance at various venues providing advice on transport assisting the media and providing information at host hotel accommodation venues. Those interested in volunteering can call Volunteering Queensland on (07) 3002 7600 or go to the summit website www.G20.org.
The not so good news was left to Katarina Carroll, Assistant Commissioner with the G20 group from the Queensland Police Service (QPS). Assistant Commissioner Carroll reminded us that there will be considerable restrictions on our movements and access to the city during the summit.
When advised that organisers are considering giving free public transport passes to summit delegates, one audience member asked if organisers would also consider providing free transport access to Brisbane residents. There was some hesitation from the panel, but the reality is they do not want locals travelling to the city during summit, and to this end there will be a Brisbane-only public holiday on Friday November 14.
So oddly, while the world’s media will be focused on Brisbane, it will be a city empty of its usual inhabitants.
Ms Carroll said the summit will be the largest peace-time security operation in Australia’s history with around 3500 QPS Officers and 1500 officers from New Zealand and interstate deployed to Brisbane.
The motorcades for heads of state will create the greatest restrictions to transport and access during the summit. 25 world leaders and 8 heads of international organisations will transported by motorcade throughout the event, with up to 35 vehicles in each. No traffic will be permitted on the routes while motorcades are travelling.
Only limited detail was provided on transport and access restrictions. Nevertheless, people were encouraged to talk with the QPS G20 External Engagement Team. A number of QPS members were available at the forum and several of us took the opportunity to speak with them separately.
The concerns of people living in the CBD and South Brisbane and the West End were both business-related, and related to residential access.
These access concerns do not just relate to transport restrictions but to the probable effects of protest action. The QPS is already working with activist groups and acknowledges that there could be significant associated disruption. It is urging anyone wishing to mount a protest to talk to them about what they want to achieve and how they want to achieve it.
QPS representatives said that while there are no officially designated protest sites, Musgrave Park in South Brisbane is likely to be a strategic rallying point for activists groups.
In response to concerns about the potential for violence, and the mismanagement of protests, Assistant Commissioner Carroll said that the QPS has closely studied and learnt from the G20 event held in Toronto in 2010. Violent clashes between police and protesters in Toronto resulted in injuries to both protestors and police, as well as considerable property damage. It should also be noted that in Toronto, protests commenced 10 days before the start of the summit itself.
A QPS representative was unable to tell me exactly what restrictions will be in place for those of us wanting to access the South Brisbane and West End during the summit. For example, no decisions have yet been made about which bridges will be closed.
While none has been planned yet, he agreed that a public forum in the West End could be a constructive option for those wanting to ask more detailed questions about the impacts of the forum, and how they can contribute to any plans to manage the impacts.
The QPS External Engagement Team is currently working directly with the West End Community Association, so stay tuned for updates.
Details of the declared and restricted area maps are on-line here: Brisbane’s Restricted Areas