Once upon a time they may have made something of the fact that a lunar eclipse will precede the arrival in Sydney of George W Bush. No longer, of course, are we so superstitious. But it does seem that eclipses of another kind will accompany his visit: Stand by for Bush’s travelling circus.
…advance teams will have been in Australia for months consulting NSW and federal police.
Their job has been to study the routes Mr Bush will travel, ensure bridges and viaducts are secure, and organise the huge secure zone. Each venue is meticulously assessed for security and to ensure there is an escape route should anything go awry…
Protesters will be kept in what are known in the US as free-speech zones – well away from the man himself. Chances are, Mr Bush will be oblivious to any protests, as they are usually kept 500 metres to a kilometre from the venues. Anyone entering the secure zone, even with a permit, will be searched for placards or other material critical of the President.
The practice of creating these zones and insulating the president from dissent has been strongly criticised by US civil liberties groups and has prompted several court cases. This week a 2002 Secret Service manual on creating the zones became public during a case brought as a result of a case involving a couple who wore anti-Bush T-shirts to an event.
“Free speech zone.” Love it! It sounds as if you are being granted a right, doesn’t it, when in fact you are being excluded…
Of course I am realistic enough to know that much of this is inevitable to mimimise the chances of a Sarajevo 1914 event, but you can’t help reflecting on the implications of a leader so, well, isolated…
But the horsies, it appears, have not been isolated enough. I blame sex myself. It is all that promiscuity in the racing game. Stallions are just male prostitutes, you know, and very expensive ones at that. I am not really into racing, perhaps a legacy of my Presbyterian background, but I do realise it is a powerful industry world-wide as well as here in Australia, and I do have a little flutter, usually unsuccessful, on the Melbourne Cup.
AUSTRALIA’S multi-billion-dollar horse racing industry is in meltdown with an outbreak of equine influenza spreading to Centennial Park, prompting the almost certain cancellation of today’s meeting at Royal Randwick and casting a cloud over the spring carnival.
Racing officials announced early today that horses from the Centennial Park stables had returned positive tests to the highly contagious disease. This came within days of 52 horses being locked down at the Eastern Creek quarantine centre.
Most of those impounded at Eastern Creek are thoroughbred stallions worth about $500 million. They were due to begin serving some of the 30,000 mares registered in Australia when the breeding season starts on September 1.
The impact on the breeding program, combined with the effect on the racing calendar, would push the cost of a flu outbreak into the billions of dollars.
The first big casualty is today’s feature meeting at Royal Randwick, which is next to Centennial Park. The meeting is set to be cancelled after racing officials meet at 6am today. No horses are allowed within five kilometres of the course.
There is even talk that the Melbourne Cup may be threatened. My God, people may have to work on the first Tuesday in November!