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March 26, 2011

Millions to turn off lights for Earth Hour tonight

Millions to turn off lights for Earth Hour tonight

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

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The Las Vegas Strip to go dark

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), organizers of the fifth annual Earth Hour, is asking people all over the world to turn off lights tonight from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. local time in support of energy conservation and awareness of climate change. In 2010, 128 countries, 4,000 cities and 1,000 landmarks worldwide participated in Earth Hour, including 13 million people in the UK.

In a statement on their website, the WWF said, “Every year Earth Hour asks individuals, businesses and communities worldwide to show their commitment to the environment. This Earth Hour, we hope you will turn off your lights. But when the lights go back on, we want you to go beyond the hour and think about what you can change in your daily life that will benefit the planet. Let’s work together to create a better future. Our actions can add up.”

Promotion by world leaders such as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is encouraging wide participation in Earth Hour 2011. This year about 130 countries are expected to take part. Such world landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, Big Ben, the Las Vegas Strip, the Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai, the Acropolis in Athens, the Sydney Opera House and Beijing’s Forbidden City are expected to go black. The 15 100-foot-tall “iconic” towers at the Los Angeles International Airport will turn green and then go black for an hour, the airport announced in a press release.

Cquote1.svg WWF’s Earth Hour has a unique ability to unite and empower people around the world Cquote2.svg

—Richard Dixon, WWF Scotland

In 2011, Scotland became the first country in the world to obtain Earth Hour cooperation from all of its cities and local jurisdictions, reported Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, emphasizing that Scotland was going all out this year for Earth Hour. He said, “With record support from cities, local authorities, iconic landmarks, schools and other organisations people will be left in no doubt that Scotland cares about tackling climate change.”

Dixon praised the efforts of the organizers of Earth Hour: “WWF’s Earth Hour has a unique ability to unite and empower people around the world.”



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July 14, 2009

British conductor Edward Downes and wife die in double assisted suicide

British conductor Edward Downes and wife die in double assisted suicide

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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The Sydney Opera House where Sir Edward conducted the opening public performance
Image: Mfield, Matthew Field.

British conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife Joan took their lives at a Swiss assisted suicide clinic on Friday, July 10, 2009, according to a statement from their family. Lady Downes, 74, was afflicted with terminal cancer, and Sir Edward, 85, was nearly blind with increasing hearing difficulties. These disabilities had forced him to give up conducting. Having no religious beliefs, the couple decided against holding a funeral.

The statement read, “After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems. They died peacefully, and under circumstances of their own choosing, with the help of the Swiss organisation, Dignitas, in Zurich.”

Many who knew the couple as friends said that Sir Edward was not terminally ill, but wanted to die with his wife, who he had been with for more than 50 years.

Sir Edward Downes’s children, in an interview with The London Evening Standard, said they escorted their parents to Zurich, and on that Friday, they watched in tears as their parents consumed “a small quantity of clear liquid,” and then proceeded to lie down together, holding hands.

“Within a couple of minutes they were asleep, and died within 10 minutes,” said their 41 year old son, Caractacus Downes.

Sir Edward was well respected in the operatic and orchestral worlds and was particularly noted for his performances of British and Russian music and of Verdi, conducting 25 of the composer’s 28 operas. He had a long association with the Royal Opera House, where he conducted for more than 50 seasons in succession. This did not stop him from refusing to conduct a series of performances of Verdi’s Nabucco there as he was “out of sympathy” with the adventurous production. His approach to conducting was similarly conservative. He wrote “The duty of a conductor should be to present… a faithful and accurate account of the composer’s music as he wrote it, disregarding any subsequent ‘interpretations’, ‘meanings’, or political agendas that may have been attached to it by others.”

It was on Friday, 28 September, 1973, that Sir Edward conducted the opening public performance at the Sydney Opera House, a staging of Prokofiev’s War and Peace by Opera Australia, of which he was musical director. Downes also served as chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and principal conductor of the BBC Philharmonic.

The family reported that Lady Downes “started her career as a ballet dancer and subsequently worked as a choreographer and TV producer, before dedicating the last years of her life to working as our father’s personal assistant.”

The Metropolitan Police have announced that Greenwich CID are investigating the circumstances of the couple’s deaths. Assisting a suicide is illegal in the United Kingdom.

Over 100 people who wished to die have made the journey from Britain to Switzerland to take advantage of the clinical services that Dignitas offers. British police have investigated many of the resulting deaths, but no family member has yet been prosecuted for helping relatives negotiate with Dignitas and travel to Switzerland. Debbie Purdy, a woman with multiple sclerosis, attempted last year to obtain a ruling from the English High Court that family members would not be prosecuted for helping someone use the service, and in particular that her husband would not be charged should she decide to use Dignitas in future. The court refused as it believed that such clarification is the responsibility of parliament and not the judiciary.

Last week the House of Lords rejected a proposal by former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer to allow people to help someone with a terminal illness travel to a country where assisted suicide is legal.


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March 29, 2008

Businesses and individuals worldwide turn lights off as part of Earth Hour 2008

Businesses and individuals worldwide turn lights off as part of Earth Hour 2008

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sydney during the hour

Individuals and organisations around the world announced their support for the environment by turning off lights and electrical appliances between 8 and 9 pm for Earth Hour 2008.

In the city of origin, Sydney, Australia, the end of Earth Hour was celebrated with a fireworks show. Although many cities were not officially covered by Earth Hour, people from regions including Bristol, United Kingdom will turn off their lights for the event. Danish royal palaces went dark at the queen’s command. One of these people told Wikinews that “it [Earth Hour] is a very important event as it helps to raise awareness of climate change worldwide.”

This is the first time the movement went global. The first Earth Hour, held on March 31, 2007, saw more than 2.2 million residents and 2100 businesses in Sydney, Australia, switch off their lights.



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June 25, 2007

Election of new 7 wonders of the world: deadline approaching

Election of new 7 wonders of the world: deadline approaching

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Of the original seven wonders of the ancient Greeks, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one remaining. The other six on the list are:
– the Hanging Gardens of Babylon,
– the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus,
– the Statue of Zeus at Olympia,
– the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus,
– the Colossus of Rhodes, and
– the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

The New Open World Foundation will announce the results of the New Seven Wonders of the World election on July 7, 2007 (or 07.07.07). The ballot itself will close on midnight the day before. The Foundation proposes a revision of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World, of which only the Great Pyramid of Giza still exist.

Among the 21 candidates left over after the previous election round ended on January 1, 2006, the Acropolis and the Maya archeological site of Chichen Itza were doing well in earlier rankings. A spokeswoman for the Foundation said earlier this month that the result is wide open.

The election ceremony will be held in Lisbon, Portugal. Hollywood actress Hilary Swank, British actor Sir Ben Kingsley and Bollywood actress Bipasha Basu have been announced as hosts, astronaut Neil Armstrong will be present, and performers will include Jennifer Lopez and Chaka Khan.

Countries promote their monuments

The finalist countries of New Seven Wonders.

Some in India fear however that the Taj Mahal might not make the A-list. In the Bihar town of Muzaffarpur, sex workers are asking people to cast their vote for the monument in Agra. “We are doing it in our own small way to promote the 17th century monument of love,” said prostitute Shahnaj Bano. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan ordered the construction of the mausoleum when his favourite wife died. People of all walks of life have joined the campaign in India: for example, hundreds of lawyers in Rajkot collectively casted their vote to support the Taj in the world wonder poll.

India’s Tourism and Culture Minister, Ambika Soni, previously pitched in the campaign by personally voting for the Taj Mahal, but government officials confirmed that they did not officially support the initiative of the for-profit organisation. “The campaign is not backed by any government agency, though we feel it is good and in the interest of the tourism industry as a whole to promote the Taj Mahal,” declared Sudhir Kumar, the Agra chief of the Indian government’s tourism department, to the Indo-Asian News Service.

India is not the only country trying to get a monument elected. Brazil’s soccer team for example, urged Brazilians to vote for Christ Redeemer, the statue in Rio de Janeiro.

Criticism on methods

The campaign started in September 1999 with a website by Swiss businessman Bernard Weber. One year later, one million votes had already been cast, and today the total number of internet, text message and telephone votes has surpassed 50 million -possibly the largest global poll ever.

Earlier on in the elections, promotional campaigns have been able to severely influence the top seven. An e-mail chain letter in Turkey caused the nation to set the voting record in February 2002. After the site had been noticed in China, the country took the lead in weeks, according to the Foundation website.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a press release on July 20 reaffirmed that it has no link with the initiative, which it says would reflect “only the opinions of those with access to the internet”. The Foundation ‘Campaign Milestones page’ however claims that “more than 25 percent of the world’s population is now aware of the N7W campaign” after the media attention around the time the final round began on January 1, 2006. UNESCO also criticized the project’s lack of scientific foundation, when compared to its own World Heritage Sites selection method.

The candidates

Originally the Pyramids of Giza had to compete against the others in the election, but after criticism in Egypt, they were removed from the election list and made an honorary candidate. The 20 other candidates are:

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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg New Seven Wonders of the World

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March 31, 2007

Sydney holds voluntary one hour blackout

Sydney holds voluntary one hour blackout

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House during Earth hour

Many lights in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, were turned off for one hour at 19:30 local time (09:30 UTC) on March 31, 2007 to raise awareness of climate change. This Earth hour, which was organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), received support from the government of New South Wales, many environmental groups and some businesses.

Many famous buildings such as the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Luna Park took part.

Organisers also hoped the event would encourage Australians to conserve energy, claiming if various electronics were switched off when they were not in use the country’s greenhouse gas emissions could reduce by up to 5%.

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March 13, 2006

Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Australia for 15th visit

Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Australia for 15th visit

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip arrived in Australia yesterday for a five-day tour which includes the opening of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, the Queen’s 15th visit of her reign and her first since 2002.

Their tour began when they landed at Fairburn Air Force Base in Canberra where they received a state welcome, attended by Prime Minister John Howard, Governor-General Major General Michael Jeffery and several hundred well-wishers. The couple accepted flowers and chatted with the crowd for a few minutes before being driven off in a black Rolls Royce.

The Queen and Prince Philip spent last night at Government House before beginning official duties in Sydney today. In Sydney, they will officially open the new colonnade of Sydney Opera House and receive a 21 gun salute.

Republican campaigners have used the occasion as an opportunity to reopen the republican debate.

“While the queen is held in great affection by the Australian people, many Australians recognize that it is no longer sensible for us to have a citizen of another country, who visits Australia only occasionally, as our head of state,” said Allison Henry, national director of the Australian Republican Movement.

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January 3, 2006

Sydney Opera House \’No War\’ activists face court for paint cans

Sydney Opera House ‘No War’ activists face court for paint cans

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Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Sydney Opera House from the side.

Two activists convicted for painting the words “NO WAR” in five-metre-high red letters on the highest sail of Sydney Opera House in March 2003, are facing court action again to prevent them from auctioning the equipment used to paint the controversial sign.

Dr Will Saunders and David Burgess were sentenced to nine months periodic detention and ordered to pay the Opera House Trust $151,000 for malicious damage to the building on March 18, 2003.

The pair spent six months in jail for painting the slogan on one of the sails of the Opera House on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. The protesters say they wish to auction the equipment for humanitarian causes in Iraq.

Police confiscated the paint can and two brushes used in the incident and have now applied for a court order to have the can and brushes destroyed. They are saying such an auction would contravene proceeds of crime laws.

Saunders said they wanted to auction the can and send the proceeds to humanitarian causes in Iraq. According to The Australian newspaper, Mr Saunders said the auction could be conducted by a registered charity to raise money for the Mother and Child Hospital in Basra.

He said the can should also be preserved as an important piece of Sydney history.

“We want to give the surplus money that we’ve raised, and anything extra we can make from an auction – not only the paint pot … I think we can raise many many thousands of dollars,” he said. “We’d be happy to come to any reasonable arrangement with the police about how this auction takes place … it’s just mean beyond belief, petty-minded just to destroy it.”

The matter will go before a Sydney court on January 16.

Meanwhile, the world-famous Sydney Opera House is one of 21 international landmarks short-listed to become the new Seven Wonders of the World. The list includes modern landmarks such as Paris’ Eiffel Tower and older candidates like the Colosseum in Rome and China’s Great Wall.

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August 31, 2005

Carnival style protest held in Sydney

Carnival style protest held in Sydney – Wikinews, the free news source

Carnival style protest held in Sydney

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

30A Protest – Forbes CEO Conference
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Protestors gathered in Customs Square to listen to speakers

The 30A protest in Sydney, Australia, occurred on Tuesday night in carnival style. The protest began around 5 p.m. at Customs Square, Circular Quay, with 1,000 to 2,000 people assembling to listen to speeches and music. After about an hour, the protestors marched along the Quay to the concrete and steel barricades preventing public access to the Opera House forecourt; where the carnival continued with music, drums, and dancing.

There were a wide variety of people present at the protest, including trade unionists, Christian groups, social justice groups, fair trade activists, and peace groups. Many people wore elaborate costumes, beat drums, played music, and sang.

All speakers emphasised the importance of protesting peacefully, encouraging protestors to avoid violence or confrontation at all costs. A number of speakers thanked the police for their efforts.

At 6 p.m. the protestors marched towards the opera house, where there was a violent confrontation between police and protestors who broke down a temporary wire fence. Music and dancing continued for a few hours after as people drifted away. The area was deserted by 9:30 p.m..

It was revealed during the evening that Tuesday evenings conference event was moved to a nearby ferry terminal because of security concerns and as such the targets of the protest were not in the area at the time.

Speeches

Christians Against Greed gathered near Opera house

The main theme of the speeches was opposition to so-called neo-liberalism. The conference attendees were described as neo-liberals, or “free market freaks”, who support reduction of the minimum wage, reduction of welfare benefits, undermining of unions, and privatisation of essential services such as water.

Greens Senator Kerrie Nettle gave a rousing speech, accusing the conference delegates of failing to protect the environment and planning to privatise government services.

“The people inside that conference want to sell our public schools and hospitals,” she said.

Some speakers also acknowledged that the protest was taking place on Aboriginal land, and there was a moments silence to reflect on past and present crimes against Australian Aborigines. The protestors chanted “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.”

Confrontation at barricades

Police line in front of breached section of barricade

At about 6 p.m., as the speeches ended, the protestors left Customs Square and marched along Circular Quay to the barrricades that had been erected at Macquarie St, to prevent the public from accessing the Opera House forecourt. A number of protestors began rocking the barricades and attempting to climb over. A flare was also thrown from the crowd over the barricades. After two or three minutes, the protestors were successful in causing one to lean over onto the ground. Police responded by using horses and batons to force the protestors back, and then forming a line of officers along the breached section to prevent anyone entering the exclusion zone. Police proceeded to make a small number of arrests.

The protestors continued their action in a peaceful manner from that point forward. The entire incident was over in less than five minutes.

Some protestors accused the police of using excessive force while making arrests. “As soon as we reached the fence, a mass of people jumped on the fence and began shaking it. Some smoke bombs flew, police dogs were going crazy and shaking of the fence became more and more intense. The fence was pretty loose at this point. Suddenly the fence went DOWN!!! And the police began grabbing people who went over with it,” said an eyewitness report on Sydney Indymedia. One protestor was transported to hospital by ambulance after breaking his collarbone during the incident.

However, others thought the police handled the situation well.

“I think the police were pretty impressive. They calmed the crowd very quickly and didn’t react to the taunts of the protesters. They didn’t do anything that I could see to inflame the situation. I think they were cool,” said a blog article written by an eyewitness.

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August 30, 2005

Sydney prepares for Forbes Conference and 30A protest

Sydney prepares for Forbes Conference and 30A protest

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

30A Protest – Forbes CEO Conference
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Sydney is today preparing for the Forbes Global CEO Conference and 30A Protest. A major police operation is occurring in the vicinity of the Sydney Opera House, where the conference is scheduled to occur. The Opera House forecourt has been closed to the public, and barricades have been set up down Maquarie St and across the Botanic Gardens.

Barricades surround the Opera House, preventing public access to the forecourt

Police checkpoints have been set up on Maquarie St and the Circular Quay walk to control access to the Opera House. Police dogs are patrolling the area.

At 8am this morning Customs Square, where the 30A protest is planning to assemble, was as normal for a Tuesday, with no indication of preparations by activists. The police have 1,000 officers attending, and have said that they are preparing for 10,000 protestors.

Sharron Burrows, leader of the ACTU, has criticised the conference, saying that it celebrates corporate greed at the expense of workers.

“As the global economy grows we should have cause for celebration for the advancement that this should deliver for workers and their families all over the world, but the reality is that corporate greed is driving profit share at the expense of wages, safe workplaces, conditions and entitlements for workers,” she said.

Police crackdown

Mr Collins said that police will respond promptly to any trouble. He has also stated that schoolchildren who attended the protest will not be immune.

“We will arrest people regardless of age in regard to if they are [unlawful] in their protest,” he said.

“I make no apology for the fact that if people are breaking the law and are disrupting the conference, we will deal with it, we will arrest people and deal with them appropriately,” he added.

Acting Police Commissioner accuses activist groups of ‘training to disrupt’

New South Wales Acting Police Commissioner, Terry Collins, on Monday accused activist groups of training their members to cause disruptions during protests. He was speaking in reference to the protests planned to coincide this week with the Forbes Global CEO Conference at the Sydney Opera House.

“Activist groups by their very nature are actually trained to go about to disrupt and certainly undermine any attempts by police or any other security forces to actually deal with protest groups,” Mr Collins said.

“I make no apology for the fact that, if people are breaking the law and are disrupting the conference, we will deal with it and we will arrest people,” he added.

A spokesman for the 30A Network, Bruce Knobloch, has labelled the claims as ridiculous.

“The assistant commissioner has been very pig headed,” he said.

“The only training I know about is something called non-violent direct action. This is exactly what it says: non-violent,” he added.

Mr Knoblock says that the 30A network has not attempted to hide its plans, and has made every attempt to work with the police.

“The 30A network has no secrets, we have been very open about our intentions: to have a carnival protest. It’s amazing the degree of paranoia going on at the heads of the NSW Police Force. We are a bunch of community activists and concerned citizens who have a right to protest against the war profiteers and free-market freaks,” he said.

The comment by the Acting Police Commissioner seem to be in contrast to previous statements from the 30A Network, who said in a press release last week that they are hoping for a peaceful, fun protest.

“We want a safe community action showing that people in Sydney oppose Howard¹s plan for a US-style wages system, the war in Iraq and his kow-towing to global corporate chiefs. We pose no threat to the Opera House or the millionaire delegates, or to other users of east Circular Quay,” the press release said.

Access to the Opera House is tightly controlled

The Herald Sun, a Melbourne newspaper, is reporting that “Radical protesters from Melbourne will send their most ‘hard-core’ activists to Sydney to protest outside a meeting of the world’s top business leaders.” The paper is reporting that “leftists” are unable to guarantee that they will obey police exclusion zones.

Socialist Party national organiser Anthony Main said that protestors would not provoke violence, however he suggested that the police may act violently.

“Given the new era of global terrorism and so forth, we wouldn’t be surprised if they (police) flexed their muscles,” he said.

The 30A Network is a loose association of peace and global justice groups and trade unions. The protest hopes to draw attention to a wide variety of issues, including war, corporate greed, and neoliberalism.

“The protest is against free-market madness. The conference attendees are people who believe that the free-market can solve all of our problems, e.g privatisation, including things such as water. One of the conference attendees works for a private water company,” Mr Knobloch said.

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August 29, 2005

Sydney, protesters reach agreement with police

Sydney, protesters reach agreement with police

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Monday, August 29, 2005

30A Protest – Forbes CEO Conference
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Organisers of the 30A Protest, planned to coincide with this weeks Forbes Global CEO Conference, have reached an agreement with police about how the protest should proceed. The 30A Network has received permission to use the Customs Square area of Circular Quay.

“After weeks of discussion and stalling, police have now given assurances that, while the Opera House forecourt will remain an exclusion zone between the CEOs and the real world, the 30A carnival protest will be facilitated at Customs Square,” said the 30A Network website.

The plans for the mass gathering were thrown into turmoil over the last few weeks when police refused permission for the protest to occur near the Opera House, and declared the entire Opera House forecourt to be off-limits for the duration of the conference.

The protest organisers have said that they are hoping for a “carnival atmosphere”, and look forward to working peacefully with the police.

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

“Assurances have been given that truck, stage, music and speeches – not to mention drumming, dancing and protest – will not be prevented from going ahead as planned in the square directly outside Customs House at Circular Quay,” the website said.

“We want a safe community action showing that people in Sydney oppose Howard¹s plan for a US-style wages system, the war in Iraq and his kow-towing to global corporate chiefs. We pose no threat to the Opera House or the millionaire delegates, or to other users of east Circular Quay,” said 30A spokesman Bruce Knobloch.

The conference will take place at the Sydney Opera House, and will be attended by hundreds of CEOs from around the world, as well as Australian Prime Minister John Howard, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and Steve Forbes himself.

Protest organisers have called for people to assemble at Customs Square at Circular Quay at 5pm on Tuesday 30 August.

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