Policing ? at a price
By PETER CATON and GENEVIEVE ALLPASS
ORGANISERS of Tweed's community festivals and annual agricultural show are terrified of the looming fees the cash-strapped NSW government may charge them for police patrols. And the managers of one event ? next month's Speed on Tweed ? are already smarting at having to pay $1700 for a police presence. The prospect of having to pay any fee, or larger fees, for police follows criticism by North Coast National Party MP Don Page of the practise. Mr Page revealed Dubbo Show in central western NSW had been billed $15,000. He has hit out at the government for a two-handed approach after it decided not to bill the organisers of a conference of some of the world's wealthiest businessmen in Sydney for police protection. The government instead will foot the bill for more than 200 police a day to guard 350 to 400 business leaders during the three-day Forbes Global CEO Forum next week. Mr Page said Labor had one set of rules for Sydney and another for country NSW. "While struggling country show societies and convenors of country community events are forced to pay massive fees for police under Labor's users-pays system," he said, "a gathering of the world's richest businessmen at the Sydney Opera House at the end of this month will pay zilch." Speed on Tweed event director Roger Ealand said it was tougher and dearer to get police presence than it had ever been. The event is totally run by volunteers, but he said it costs the group $1700 to have police security. "We don't begrudge our local police though because they would bend over backwards to help us out," Mr Ealand said. "I think the directive is from a lot higher up, and our local police would do it for us if they could." Speed on Tweed will be held on September 16 to 18. Murwillumbah Show Society president Jenny Glasby said the prospect of the show having to pay for police was raised last year but quashed. At this stage the show did not expect to have to pay for police at this year's event in November, but would pay for security around the bar. She said police did some patrols and always quickly responded to any calls, but added: "If we had to pay, I don't know if we could sustain that. We sure wouldn't want to pay for them." Banana Festival organisers who are preparing for this Saturday's street parade and showground carnival had similar concerns. Co-ordinator Margo Outridge said the festival had security staff at the showground but was grateful for police patrols which, as yet, were not charged for. Mr Page said Labor's policing fees were threatening the future of country and coastal shows and important community events. "Costs of up to $15,000 are being demanded, and it's forcing some events to be cancelled and others to be held less fre- quently," he said.