Parks Victoria … Makes Me Despair

Late on Friday afternoon, November 5th, I got an email from Sasha Sarago, the Indigenous Tourism Officer for Parks Victoria, telling me the following:


Since June this year Parks Victoria has conducted an independent review of its Annual Landscape Photography Licence System. The review is now complete and we confirm that Parks Victoria will continue to issue its Annual Landscape Photography permits to photographers that require access to Parks Victoria managed areas for commercial purposes.

The review confirmed that under the National Parks Act (1975) a permit must be issued for any commercial activity undertaken within any park scheduled under the Act. This includes the activities of individuals or groups conducting photography for commercial publications.

A permit is required to ensure that photography activities are directed to the most suitable places and to minimise potential conflict with other licensees and with the experiences of other park visitors. A permit also ensures that activities are carried out with the appropriate risk management procedures and insurance cover, as deemed by the Victorian Government.

The Commercial Filming and Photography Policy has been in place for over 10 years. In 2001 Parks Victoria reviewed the policy and the process for allocating commercial filming and photography permits to ensure permits are allocated in a fair and equitable manner. This review was done in consultation with the Melbourne Film Office, Australian Institute of Professional Photographers and Australian Commercial and Magazine Photographers. The Parks Victoria Commercial Filming and Photography Permit process is recognised by these groups as industry best practice.


Would any of my blog followers like to comment on this before I fire back at Parks Victoria the “serve” that they well and truly need?

Posted in Australia, National Parks, Photography | 11 Comments

Twenty Five Years Since Handback at Uluru

This past week has seen the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Handback of what was then the Uluru (Ayers Rock

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Freedom of Expression? It’s Just a Load of Blether!

There was a very interesting article published in today’s edition of The Age newspaper. You can find the article online here …

Penned by senior writer, Geoff Strong, the article exposed the ongoing “war against photography” that is being mounted in places such as Kakadu, Uluru and at various Sydney landmarks. And as the article also mentioned, by a crank ranger at Victoria’s Point Nepean National Park who about a year ago ordered a DSLR-toting visitor to leave the Cape Schanck area because the photographer had a camera which looked vaguely professional and professional photography just wasn’t allowed in the park without a permit.

The article allowed online comments and most of them were from people who took the view that permits for “professional” photographers were a complete overstepping of the mark by the Victorian government, or in particular, by Parks Victoria. I say most of the online comments took that view – of course there were a couple of trolls who seemed to think that “freedom of expression” was a concept worth discarding.

One of these trolls was someone who called herself, “Click Click”. According to “Click Click”, she was one of many, many photographers who had sold images of national parks for profit. And on that basis she didn’t think it was unreasonable at all that Parks Victoria had a permit system for professional photographers.

“Parks Victoria are land managers who look after land that belongs to the public, to us all. So is it really fair that someone can come on to public land, pay nothing and make a profit? No.”

But why not, Click Click? After all, if it is public land that belongs to all of us, then it equally belongs to the photographers as well. You might find this strange, Click Click but I don’t levy a fee on myself for taking photographs in my own house (or expect the government to impose one on me either), so why should it apply when I visit a national park in Victoria?

Fortunately, other people who left comments at The Age web page, did take Click Click and the smattering of other apologists for Parks Victoria to task. Tom from Sydney, noted that “Australians should be truly frightened at these ‘nanny state’ control freaks.” While Marcosss from Melbourne made the point that this mindless policy of Parks Victoria deserved nothing less than contempt.

“The only way that these laws can be overturned is by them being constantly challenged. If you are a serious artist or enthusiast you ignore the calls to not take the photograph and insist that they call in the police. The police seldom attend as they are way to busy fighting real crime. I have challenged these would be Nazis in the past and managed to get my shots and walk away. I will continue to do so until asked not to by the police and then I will take it to court. I implore all photographers to do the same. We are being treated like children by an authoritarian bureaucracy hell bent on making us all compliant, insipid drones. Not for me, I refuse to give up my basic rights for the sake of pointless policy.”

However Click Click was having nothing none of this. When it was pointed out to her that Victoria had the equivalent of a Bill of Rights (the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities from 2006) and that this guaranteed freedom of expression, she swung back into action revealing her true colours as a control freak.

“Your entries clearly demonstrate the ‘it’s my right and I’ll do what I want’ mentality that a lot of professional photographers unfortunately have. So all that blether about freedom of expression, human rights etc. etc. is just that, blether.”

Actually, the word is blather, not blether but the notion that people should lose their individual rights when they step inside a national park – which is what Click Click was supporting – is truly retrograde in the extreme. It’s so 1984! Mind you, Click Click was probably the sort of person who when she was at school made sure that the teacher knew that some people in the class hadn’t handed their homework in on time.

What’s the word that springs to mind when I think of people like her? “Tittle tat” I think.

Posted in Australia, Censorship, National Parks, Photography | 3 Comments

Intense Paranoia Rules at Uluru

Posted in Australia, National Parks, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park | 2 Comments

Some Kind of Reply from Waverley Council

On Wednesday, September 29th I finally received a “lengthy” response from the one and only Danielle Lee-Ryder, Media/Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Waverley Council. This response was to a set of questions that I had sent to her on September 17th. These questions – which sought further clarification on the matter of still photography within the Waverley Council LGA – were as follows:

Hello Danielle – I have received your email of September 16th but you have still not given me an answer to several of the questions that I put to Waverley Council on Tuesday.   These questions are:  

Question One

Waverley Council has produced a document titled “Commercial Filming and Photography in and of Public Open Spaces in Waverley”. This document can be accessed at

According to this document, you need a permit … ‘If you want to capture aerial images of Waverley for commercial purposes from aircraft flying over the area’ and … ‘If you want to use an image of the Waverley area for a commercial purpose (for example you may be a picture editor, a commercial film library or tour operator).’

My question therefore is this: On what basis can Waverley Council insist on permits in either of these situations? What legal right do you have to ask for such permits? (In your response of September 13th you claimed: “Many commercial products and events seek to align their product with the Bondi brand. It is in the interest of all parties to protect and maintain its iconic status and image.” However this does not answer the question that I put to Waverley Council and further, I can see nothing in the Local Government Act 1993 which would give Waverley Council any such powers which are claimed in the document that I have cited.)

Question Two:

You noted in your response of September 13th that, “Waverley Council receives thousands of applications each year for photography and filming.”

My question is this, how many photographic applications did Waverley Council receive in the past year (financial year 2009-2010, or calendar year 2009) and how many were approved?

Question Three:

On Page Four of the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009, the Minister for Local Government notes the following: “Fees and charges related to location filming activity are, at a maximum, to be cost reflective.”

My question is this. In what way can the Waverley Council charges for still photography ($150 application fee and $75 per hour for low impact) be said to be “cost reflective”, when a low impact photographer incurs no cost to council apart from your own self-imposed cost of processing an application?

Further, aren’t “commercial” photographers entitled to feel that they are being unfairly treated by Waverley Council when you impose a cost upon them of an application fee of $150 plus $75 per hour for both low and medium impact photography (thus making a one-day shoot of eight hours a very costly exercise at $750) when a personal fitness trainer can make use of Waverley Council’s public open spaces throughout the entire year for as little as $700?

Question Four: (new question)

What is Waverley Council’s definition of “commercial photography”? Does your definition of commercial photography only apply to commissioned photography or does it also apply to speculative photography where a photographer does imagery which may in the future provide them with a “reward” (i.e. payment)?

Question Five: (new question)

You noted in your email of September 13th that, “We (Waverley Council) are well within our right to charge a fee as do many other organisations and Councils.”

You also noted in that email the fee structure that Waverley Council applies to low and medium impact photography – which obviously does not require street closures, set construction or additional parking – as being $75 per hour plus an application fee of $150.

Given that Waverley Council requires approval for and applies fees to small-scale “commercial photography”, what does your council actually think was meant by the paragraph that I have previously highlighted on Page 8 of the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009?  This paragraph being:

“This Protocol does not cover stills photography – the Filming Related Legislation Amendment Act 2008 and the Local Government Act 1993 specifically exclude still photography, and it does not require council approval or attract council fees unless it involves additional activity such as blocking streets, constructing a set or additional parking. In these cases, the Protocol can provide guidance for councils in processing high impact stills shoots. Those contemplating still photography should approach councils for further information.”

Forgive me for my persistence on this matter but when I have shown that section of the Local Government Filming Protocol 2009 to “ordinary mortals” the clear majority of them have concluded that local councils do not have a right to charge fees or require approval from what you would describe as low or medium impact photography.

I look forward to your considered response.

Thanking you,

Ross Barnett


The response I have got from Danielle Lee-Ryder is as follows:

Hi Ross

Thank you for your questions relating to fees and charges for commercial still photography.  I wanted to ensure all your concerns were fully reviewed by the appropriate officers before finalising your enquiries, so I appreciate your patience.

Council sets its fees and charges each year as part of development of its Operational Plan for the following financial year. Preparations for this begin at the start of each calendar year and recommendations are included in the draft plan placed on public exhibition in April / May.  Final recommendations, taking account of any public feedback, are then put to Council for resolution in June. This process provides a regular opportunity to review various policy implications relating to fees and charges, including any for commercial still photographers. Of course, Council welcomes suggestions on policy matters at any time and these should be submitted in writing to the General Manager or Mayor accordingly.

The filming protocol released by the Division of Local Government (NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet) carries the weight of law. However, this protocol deals exclusively with filming and not still photography. It does not place any prohibitions on local government authorities around the setting of fees and charges in relation to use of community facilities for commercial photography.

The document you have seen entitled ‘Commercial Filming and Photography in and of Public Open Spaces in Waverley’ is useful as a discussion paper. Its current status is that of a working document and it has not been endorsed as formal operating policy.

In relation to the figures of how many applications we receive – “thousands of applications” was intended as a figure of speech. It is indisputable that Bondi Beach is widely seen as a high demand location. For example, in the State Government’s media release dated 22 September 2009 announcing the revised filming protocol, Bondi was cited as an example of a “hot spot” or frequent filming site. Our permit and fee system covers a range of activities including commercial photography, filming, personal training activities, promotions and various other events. In the last financial year 67 permits were granted in relation to photography around beach areas and 12 were granted for local parks. There were no applications in relation to photography in Waverley Cemetery in the same period.

Council acknowledges that many photographers use locations in the Waverley area without seeking permits, and recognises that most of them do not alienate the amenity of areas set aside for the community at large.


Danielle Lee-Ryder
Media/Executive Assistant to Mayor
Waverley Council
Ph: 9369 8126
Fax: 9369 8065
Mob: 0416 075 532


Notice how in Lee-Ryder’s response that by and large, answers are NOT provided to my direct questions. Instead she has given me back what might best be described as a rambling piece of spin.  This “habit” of not replying to many of my direct questions is sadly, something that I have got used to from other functionaries as I have been researching my story for A********* P********** magazine during the past few months.

Posted in Australia, Censorship, Photography | 13 Comments

I Want to Become A Victorian

This evening (September 21st) I have received a very interesting email from Bill Rowlings, who is the Secretary of Civil Liberties Australia (CLA).

He has told me the following: “In the ACT and Victoria, people already have the chance to argue their case for the right to take photos under human rights legislation. The issue has not yet arisen in these jurisdictions, but it will.  Note that both Acts give ACT and Victorian residents rights ‘regardless of borders’ and ‘whether within or outside Victoria’. Under Australian law, NSW is obliged to respect the laws of Victoria.”

And on that basis, Queensland has to respect the laws of Victoria as well. I recently had a friend from Melbourne who told me that she would (technically) need a permit to publish images from a bushwalking trip that she was doing in central Queensland. Given that the bushwalking trip she was undertaking was going to last six days, she would have had to pay the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service (QPWS) in excess of $150 to publish these images if the QPWS had decided to enforce their bizarre regulations.

Anyway, this is the relevant section of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006

15. Freedom of expression

(1)     Every person has the right to hold an opinion without interference.
(2)     Every person has the right to freedom of expression which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, whether within or outside Victoria and whether –
(a)     orally; or
(b)     in writing; or
(c)     in print; or
(d)     by way of art; or
(e)     in another medium chosen by him or her.
(3)     Special duties and responsibilities are attached to the right of freedom of expression and the right may be subject to lawful restrictions reasonably necessary –
(a)     to respect the rights and reputation of other persons; or
(b)     for the protection of national security, public order, public health or public morality.

I sincerely doubt that the “lawful restrictions” that can be imposed upon freedom of expression would extend to the right of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service or certain local councils in Sydney to act like modern-day bushrangers.

Posted in Australia, National Parks, Photography | 9 Comments

Filming and Photographic Fees and Charges are Extortion

In today’s edition of The Sydney Morning Herald there is a very  interesting Page One article about price gouging by Telstra, everyone’s favourite telecommunications company … “Call charges set to fall as Telstra price gouging revealed” by Lucy Battersby (

I was particularly interested in the fact that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has revealed that the cost to Telstra of each local call placed is just 7 cents, while the company charges the other companies that it onsells to 17 cents for each local call. The price of local calls is capped at 22 cents.

Reading this article made me wonder what costs are “incurred” by local councils and the various national parks services that charge fees for small-scale “commercial” filming and photography? I would strongly suggest that the cost to these bodies – apart from their self-imposed cost of “approval” – is none. Zero. Nada. Nichts. Not one cent.

What’s even worse is that given that Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which was ratified by us in 1980, that these various fees and charges would be seem to be in breach of Australia’s commitment to protect freedom of expression.

Article 19 (2) of the Covenant – which is a United Nations document – states that, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of their choice.” It should also be noted that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights states that “covenants, statutes, protocols and conventions are legally-binding for those States that ratify or accede to them” – see

And while Article 19 (2) of the Covenant is tempered by Article 19 (3) which succeeds it and there is not an absolute carte blanche given to freedom of expression, the certain restrictions that can be imposed upon it by law can only be necessary in order to protect the rights and reputations of others, or are for the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals.

So when Waverley Council imposes a fee upon a freelance photographer of $75 an hour plus $150 application fee, one could be one hundred per cent guaranteed that this financial impost – which impinges on the photographer’s freedom of expression – has nothing to do with protecting the rights and reputations of others, or for the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals. It’s all about a local council’s self-proclaimed right to engage in price gouging.


* Sydney Harbour Federation Trust – the “owners” of Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour charge $1,250 for a full day of “low intensity” photography, which scales up to $2,000 for a full day of “low intensity” filming. For more information on the Trust’s  bushranging activities see my previous post at

By setting fees which are in the “stratosphere” for low intensity filming and photography, the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust are gold medal performers in the art of price gouging. But here are some of the runners-up:

* Cairns Regional Council – $145 for a commercial photography permit. Applicants for either a commercial filming or photography permit must also hold public liability insurance cover to a minimum value of $20 million. Most other jurisdictions that require public liability insurance cover only need it to a value of $10 million.

* Parramatta City Council – $565.90 per day for commercial filming or photography plus a bond of $1,500. If the filming or photography is deemed to have a community benefit, Parramatta City Council still thinks that it is fine and dandy to take $84.65 per day from your wallet, while the bond is $275.

* City of Port Phillip (Melbourne) – a permit for commercial stills photography costs $319.00 for the first day and $141.00 for any subsequent days. Applicants for a commercial filming permit must hold public liability insurance cover to a minimum value of $20 million, while applicants for a commercial photography permit are required to hold public liability cover to a minimum value of not be less than $5 million.

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