Chickens beware – according to the head of the “APEC Command” today, Sydney police will be asking for ID from anyone who crosses the road during the forthcoming “Leaders’ Week”.

This is of course only the latest assault on the rights and convenience of Sydneysiders, a self-obsessed breed who traditionally do not attract sympathy from the rest of the country.

However, with the transformation of the CBD into a military camp (which lucky fencing supplier has got rich on that contract?), havoc being wreaked on small businesses, the suspension of civil liberties, the security vetting of children’s choirs, and traffic arrangements apparently intended to cause world’s best practice gridlock, the rest of us might spare a thought for those in durance vile under the APEC occupation. Even NSW Apologiser-in-Chief Morris Iemma has given up saying sorry for the impending chaos.

Indeed, the NSW Government admits that APEC will cause as much disruption as the 2000 Olympics, which is a rather unfortunate comparison. At least the Olympics brought millions of happy overseas visitors to the city; all Sydney’s getting from APEC is a flying visit from a bunch of leaders whose ranks include some of the world’s worst dictators, thugs and war criminals, and protests from a bunch of economic flat-earthers.

The organisation isn’t even geopolitically relevant – it may have had free trade pretensions in the early 90s, but the Howard Government rightly sensed the pointlessness of APEC and has ignored it for a decade.

Alas, now APEC is part of the Prime Minister’s re-election strategy, so we have to pretend it’s important again. The bloke has won four elections on the trot, admittedly, but you’ve got to wonder what cricket bat oil Howard was sniffing when he thought standing in a Drizabone next to George Bush was going to get anyone to vote for him.

Dubya now has an impressive record of being singularly ineffective in dealing with his enemies but damn good at messing up his friends – he was electoral poison to scores of Republican candidates in the US mid-term elections last year and has managed to reduce Tony Blair’s entire legacy to the Pet Shop Boys’ “I’m With Stupid”. Maybe the PM thinks that people will see them together and say “well, he’s not as bad as some.”

It came as no surprise, therefore, when it was revealed Bush was going to bugger up Howard’s plans by insisting on coming and going early, thereby maximising the inconvenience for everyone else while minimising any faint benefit for one of his last remaining colleagues in the Coalition of the Wilting.

The key issue now is who else the Prime Minister can stand next to at the traditional APEC “dress like a d-ckhead” photo op. No-one knows who the Japanese PM is and he’ll probably be gone by next week anyway, Vladimir Putin now insists on acting like a James Bond villain, Hu Jintao leads a murderous tyranny that poisons our kids with lead. Perhaps one of Asia’s lesser despots will take pity on the PM and put a comforting arm around his shoulder while the photos are being taken.

It may not earn the much-needed APEC poll bounce Howard craves, but he may feel that at least someone in Sydney likes him.

Peter Fray

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