In another police victory against gays, the government has yielded to a four year police campaign against the Offences in Public Places Act, section 5 on -˜serious affront and alarm’ and agreed to dramatically widen the section.

Under an amendment expected to be passed this week, the new offences will be -˜offensive behaviour’, as it was before the reform in 1979, a reform which the government then described as the end of -˜an extremely repressive and unfortunate piece of legislation’.

The police have repeatedly claimed that under -˜serious affront and alarm’ they had no power against prostitutes, louts threatening violence on the streets, public fornication, urination and defecation and much more. Despite this they managed to prosecute over 2,500 people a year, and convict 86% of them.

It was -˜serious affront and alarm’ which in 1981 was the charge against a man who, late one Sunday evening was seen by police to be dancing at Flo’s Palace, allegedly touching his partner on the thighs and kissing him with his mouth open! A magistrate convicted him, but it was dismissed on appeal. The same charge was used in two of the Club 80 raids, once for a man saying words to the police that upset them, one for a man supposedly doing something sexual.

Now the police are to have much wider power -“ we are back to the days when embracing in the street was offensive, when saying -˜oink’ in the hearing of a policeman got you a steep fine. The only reason given by the government was to show their support for the police and try and buy off industrial criticism of the Police Board which was aimed at cleaning up the image of corruption of police and improving community confidence in the police force.

A number of gay organisations, Gay Rights Lobby, Gay Solidarity Group, the Gays Counselling Service, the Homosexual Law Reform Coalition and the ALP Gay Group have written to all government members of the NSW Parliament lodging a strong protest and pointing out that it is yet one more weapon police will use to harass gays and other minorities they dislike.

So, yet another anti-gay act by the Labor government. But Greiner and his -˜Liberals’ along with the bushy tail that wags them are determined not to be outdone in repression of gays.

The conservatives have campaigned for four years against the new law, and twice introduced legislation trying to restore the old Act. Now they are saying -“ Too late and not enough. On November 27, Greiner appeared again on Fred Nile’s radio diatribe against civilised society. Fred described the return to the dark ages as -˜A great victory for the community’. Greiner fell over himself to agree and trumpet his party’s commitment to more police powers, less individual freedom and a return to the days of -˜morality’ police.

Fourteen Labor members voted against the change in the law in caucus. Not enough but better than nothing. They are the same people who consistently support gay rights. Predictably no Liberals share their views.

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