Responding to Baloney (aka lies) about Uluru

The ABC News website has today run a story based on an interview with the panoramic photographer, Ken Duncan. The story, titled “Snappers want ‘Ulu-rules’ eased” can be seen here:

The story was posted just after 9 am this (Thursday) morning and comments were allowed for a short amount of time. However just five hours later, I have discovered that comments have now been closed. Thank you ABC Online … NOT!

I wanted to respond to one particular commenter who called himself “topend”. This person’s comment was posted at 12:01:01 pm. According to “topend” – who sounded suspiciously like a Parks Australia acolyte – “Similar restrictions on PROFESSIONAL photography exist in most national parks in the world”.

Oh yes? Really?

Perhaps Mr or Ms “topend” could provide me with an example of any photography regulations (professional or otherwise) in other national parks around the world, which can make it a criminal offence to take the “wrong” picture of a natural object … because I cannot find any. This whole furphy about “management of commercial filming and photography in protected areas and other places is commonplace” is a smokescreen to hide the level of overt censorship and bullying of the image-making community that goes on at Uluru.

For the benefit of “topend” these are some of the restrictions that can be put into place at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Under Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Regulation 12.24 (3) the Director of National Parks may prohibit or restrict the capturing of images or recording of sounds: (a) generally or to a class of persons; and (b) at all times, at specified times or for a specified period; and (c) in all or part of the reserve.

In other word, the Director of National Parks can ban all filming and photography in a Commonwealth Reserve, which is what Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is. So much for any concept of “freedom of speech”. Additionally under EPBC Regulation 12.24 (5), the Director of National Parks, a ranger or a warden may, at any time, require a person who has captured an image or recorded a sound in contravention of subregulation (1) to surrender the following: (a) all copies and forms of the image or sound recording; (b) any device or means used to capture the image or record the sound.

In other words you can have your camera equipment confiscated as well as being subject to prosecution and … if convicted, be liable for thousands of dollars in fine plus have the possibility of getting a criminal record. And all this for taking the supposedly “wrong” picture of a rock.

Compare this to the United States of America where the sole rule governing photography in national parks, which is Public Law 106-206, says that “The Secretary [of the Interior] shall not require a permit nor assess a fee for still photography on lands administered by the Secretary if such photography takes place where members of the public are generally allowed.”

Under Public Law 106-206 which dates from May 26th, 2000 – that is, less than two months before the EPBC Regulations were approved by our Federal Parliament – no mention is made of commercial intent or otherwise and photographers such as Ken Duncan who do not bring models or props into a national park, do not require permits or pay fees and cannot be charged with an offence for taking the “wrong” picture of a rock.

Additionally, the regulations for the Tasmanian national parks – vis-a-vis editorial-styled photography – are very similar to those in place in the National Park Service system in the United States. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service are not aligned with Parks Australia, who make the rules for Uluru. And for that we should all be very, very grateful.

It should also be noted that EPBC Regulation 12.24 would probably have been declared unconstitutional if proposed in the United States of America, as its potential to seriously inhibit freedom of speech would be rightly seen as being in breach of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In fact in 2001, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) in the state of Rhode Island had to drop plans to impose restrictions on photographers working in state parks and management areas. The DEM had proposed requiring all photographers to get written permission before shooting on state-owned land and to obtain signed releases from anyone recognisable in the photos.

This was successfully challenged by the Providence Journal Co. (a newspaper publisher) and the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued that such restrictions would violate the First Amendment rights of professional photographers. It is a great pity that we don’t have a Bill of Rights in this country because if we did then several of the EPBC Regulations wouldn’t have even got to first base.


About rossbmedia

Journalist ... interested in the truth not public service spin.
This entry was posted in Australia, Censorship, National Parks, Photography, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Responding to Baloney (aka lies) about Uluru

  1. Rob Walls says:

    One would have to wonder what concepts of liberty and freedom of expression people like “Topend” advocate. None, I suppose.

    I live in Tasmania and am grateful that the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service take the liberal approach that they do in recognising the symbiotic relationship between photographers and landscape. This state was blessed with two of the best wilderness photographers in Olegas Truchanas who in turn was a mentor to Peter Dombrovskis. Coincidentally, both died pursuing their craft in the wilderness they loved.

    Perhaps it should be mentioned here that there is a demonstration against these iniquitous laws organised by Arts Freedom Australia at Cambells Cove in Sydney on Sunday 29th August. More information here:

  2. rossbmedia says:

    Thanks for that Rob. I noticed after making this post that there were several other comments posted at the ABC News site which appear to have been made by people who were more than likely Parks Australia employees. One of them was from somebody calling himself “Mike”.

    According to Mike who posted a response to a comment by Steve F at 11:57:58 am, “There are no restrictions on photographing nature. The requirement for a permit only applies to commercial photographers as ALL commercial activity in national parks requires a permit.” So the sacred sites that all people who visit Uluru are banned from taking pictures of, aren’t natural objects? I think not.

    In fact you can see one of these verboten sacred sites in my previous post on Taputji. That site is a completely natural, geological feature – which no culture or human being played any part in creating, whatsoever. But that is not my picture … it is merely a screenshot taken from what I could see on my computer screen at Google Earth.

    As for the notion that ALL commercial activity in national parks requires a permit, I know that as a paid writer I am never asked to have a permit when I visit a national park, yet this is obviously a “commercial activity” as well using the very broad definition that Parks Australia has set in place. Parks Australia and other park services on mainland Australia know that they would have journalists screaming “blue murder” at them if they tried to impose the same malarkey upon writers that these organisations try to impose upon photographers. And as journalists largely control newspaper content their freedom of expression is not under threat from Parks Australia … just yet.

  3. Barry Ashenhurst says:

    G’day Ross.
    I was at the rally on Sunday and as a writer and photographer I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said. As far as ‘Topend’ goes, he or she has never been to Yosemite National Park where there are five million visitors anually, rangers actually help you find the photographs you’re after, and where you can take a dog if he’s on a lead and doesn’t stray into areas designated as ‘wilderness’.

    For me, the laws restricting photography in National Parks and public places here are not merely the tip of an iceberg but ominous. It’s short step from the Stalinist ‘Dont take that photograph and give me that camera’ to ‘Don’t express that political opinion or I’ll arrest you’.

    If we don’t fight for our rights, don’t doubt it, we’ll lose them.

  4. freoview says:

    The eroding of our liberties has become a serious issue for photographers and the wider community.
    By allowing people in power to take away more and more of our freedom, we give them more power and that is very dangerous!

    That photographers should have restricted access to places because of terrorism is stupidity. That Australian photographers should get permits to work in our own nature, while foreigners can do as they like is racist.

    Roel Loopers

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