Wednesday, September 12, 2007

APEC Washup - a failure in manners leads to a lost opportunity

Andrew Scipione, the new Chief Commissioner, said tactics were clearly defined and practised. "That's the way that we do business in NSW now."

No comments Jim??... interesting when the truth comes out hey... He was a twit and deserved everything he got.... not news worthy the truth is it????

These two quotes encapsulate one of the problems (as I see it) presently facing Australia.

The first quote is a response by the NSW Police Commissioner to criticism of APEC security. So far as he is concerned, we can lump it or like it. Yes, Mr Scipione, that is the way we do business in NSW now.

The second is quote is a response to the story I put up on the arrest of Mr McLeay. This led to a comment from an apparent eye-witness. Do read it because it provides a different perspective. When I did not respond properly - I could not because my internet was down - it lead to the second comment.

Now when you have read you eye witness account, ask yourself this.

Assume that everything in the account was right, and we cannot assume that. Did this warrant the treatment, including a longish period in jail without being able to contact a lawyer? Did he deserve everything he got? I find this hard to believe.

In the heading to this post I said in summary that a failure in manners had led to a lost opportunity.

Before going on, let me make my own position clear.

First, I was very glad that Australia got to host APEC. This gave us a chance to showcase the country.

Secondly, I fully accepted that there were security issues at two levels. The first lay in the need to protect the meeting from the nut-case fringe of the anti-globalisation protesters. The second lay in the terrorist threat to some at least of the global leaders.

Thirdly, I accept that the police had a difficult job.

All this said, to my mind APEC was an failure because it failed to deliver the expected benefits. The vision of Australia that was beamed around the world was that of police, of control, of trouble.

And none of this was necessary. To my mind, the failure here comes back to one of manners and tolerance.

I said in a recent post that I was perhaps old fashioned, a tag that I was beginning to wear with some pride. Thinking about it since, old fashioned is a tag that I actually wear with great pride. I do not think that I am alone here. Recently I have noticed a growing re-emphasis on manners, on rules for interaction between people.

Manners does not mean being insincere. It does not mean bull shitting. It does mean recognising that civilised life requires courtesy, respect, the willingness to accept minor inconveniences for the benefit of others.

My objections to the universal contemptuous use of the word punter is an example of my growing objection to lack of manners, as is my increasing inclusion of the word "Mr" as compared to the universal final or family name.

I have been testing some of this. I have deliberately adopted old fashioned manners at work. Holding the door open. Asking people how they feel, and then following up if they give a an answer that suggests that they have nor been well, have a problem. Letting people into traffic.

The results have been fantastic. People brighten up, respond.

How does all this relate to APEC? Simply, I feel that in our obsession with security and control we forgot about manners.

In my my post following the Chaser's stunt I suggested that the authorities had adopted the wrong approach.

My starting point was that they should have focused on our role as hosts in making people welcome to our country. We should all have been encouraged to welcome the APEC delegates. I concluded that because they put everything into a security frame, they destroyed the chance to make APEC a public celebration in the way the Olympics were.

That post was written as the main meeting was about to get underway. I think that subsequent events reinforced my argument.

To head off the obvious response, of course the Olympics were different. This was a very different event with different problems. But I think that it remains true that the way in which we did things was flawed.

One simple example. The heavy handed and authoritarian approach created the climate for the Chaser's stunt. As a result, I suspect that the lasting memory of this APEC will be the security precautions on one side, the Chaser stunt on the other.

Video on the stunt is now up on the Chaser's site.


Lexcen said...

The Chaser stunt showed that Australia's idea of how to handle security needs to be revised. Other examples of heavy handedness by Police just emphasize the point.

Jim Belshaw said...

I think that's right, Lexcen.

I normally don't watch the Chaser, although I did watch last night. If the police had laughed, given them a solid dressing down, taken the lessons on board but otherwise left things alone, they would have gone some distance to minimising the fall-out.

The police said, I am sure that this is true, that they tried to warn the program in advance that stunts such as this were unwise. That warning really only made things worse in the way it seems to have been given.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that, if we had corroborating vision of the “eyewitness” account regarding Mr. McLeay, then the police response would have seemed logical and would have appeared less “heavy handed”, even understandable.

You mention that the world’s vision of Australia during APEC was one of police, control and trouble. The video footage of Mr. McLeay’s arrest was perhaps the most viewed piece of APEC footage seen by the global viewing public.

If the eyewitness account is true, then Mr. McLeay’s potential lack of openness on the matter has done a huge disservice to APEC, to the NSW police force and to the Australian community.

I also contend that had similar “heavy handedness” as you call it been used at Melbourne G20 then that event would not have been the disgraceful violent shamble that it was. Those thugs weren’t interested in responding to manners.

Your experiment in manners between two or three like-minded people in a non risk environment and how it can be applied to something the size of an APEC event draws a long bow. The stakes at an APEC event are too great, particularly where public/ group agendas are not like-minded.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, anon. I will try to respond tonight when I have had a chance to think about the points you raise.

Jim Belshaw said...

Anon, let's start with the areas where we are in agreement.

I agree that the "anti-globalisation" protestors, I put "anti-globalisation" in inverted commas because they are such a mixed bad, have created real problems. I would even be preapred to accept that the NSW precautions made a Melbourne G20 outcome less likely.

My problem with the NSW situation lay not so much in what was done as the way it was done. This ensured the negative outcome.

My recent experiment with manners was not limited to a few like-minded people, but was a broader test.

The core of my charge against the authorites and APEC was that they started with the wrong thing, a public obsession with security and order.

Yes, these things were necessary, but only as a supporting requirement. Putting things another way, security and order were necessary conditions to a successful APEC, but they were not sufficient conditions. In making them central in the way they did, the authorities created the pre-conditions for failure from an Australian national perspective.

Jim Belshaw said...

A short further comment.

That last post was an expression of opinion. To ensure an effective dialogue, I probably need to flesh that opinion out with my supporting arguments. That will have to be later. I want to write a post on Dame Mary Gilmore.