A survey was sent to all NMG members after sleazeball,it comes as no surprise. Both on the night and in the days that
followed the party a major focus of the feedback we received was about
the policing of the event, the presence of sniffer dogs on the dance
floors and what many of you felt were quite arbitrary searches of our
Over and over you told us that you felt the police presence was an “invasion of privacy”, “intimidating”, “intrusive” and “over the top”. Your comments make clear that many of you are angry, not only as attendees of our parties, but also as Australian citizens who feel their rights are being eroded and as taxpayers who feel they are witnessing a misallocation of police resources.
You raised particular concerns about the Police conducting searches in very public areas, conducting searches without a reasonable level of suspicion and violating the privacy of the medical area. Such behaviour does not accord with the protocols agreed between New Mardi Gras and Police NSW.
More broadly it is clear that the Police’s increased presence both outside and inside the party is having a major impact on our audience’s enjoyment of this and other events. We make every effort at our parties to create a fantasy world, a place for people to relax and have fun. To have sombre-faced officers in reflective clothing roaming around the dance floor with sniffer dogs clearly makes our task much more difficult.
This is a major issue for New Mardi Gras. Sleaze Ball – like Mardi Gras Party and the Mardi Gras harbour party – are fundraising events for the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. Any impact on ticket sales to these events has a very direct impact on our ability to sustain the Parade, the Mardi Gras Season and organisation as a whole.
Over-zealous policing has the potential to undermine one of the key events in the NSW calendar and one that brings in an estimated $30 million new dollars into the state through overseas and interstate visitation each and every year.
Because of this we intend to initiate a number of initiatives to seek more proportionate policing in the future, whilst reaffirming our zero tolerance to intoxication, substance use or other illegal activities.
We will be raising our concerns in a number of quarters, with our senior police contacts, with the Office of the Lord Mayor, with Events NSW and the Premiers Department representatives we liaise with as a NSW Hallmark event. We will also ask our members and patrons to share their views and experiences with those bodies and their members of parliament.
We have already commenced discussions with community health, legal and rights bodies and we will work with them closely to form a united community front on this issue and instigate additional programs to assure the highest levels of safety and protection for our community at our events.
We will establish a program to ensure our rights are well understood and respected, and we will endeavour to provide volunteers with legal expertise at our events to ensure that members and guests are fully aware of their rights if confronted with intimidating or over-zealous handling by police.
We will also raise the bigger question about the cost and benefit of operations like this. Was the commitment of taxpayer dollars to enforcement at Sleaze Ball worth the 18 minor personal possession offences reportedly recorded?
The Police themselves came out last week to say that Sleaze Ball “was probably the highlight of the night, where behaviour was concerned.” We will be asking the Police to match this behaviour with less intrusive police operations based on the presumption of innocence of our patrons and a respect for our rights and for published protocols.