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 (http://www.smh.com.au/business/call-charges-set-to-fall-as-telstra-price-gouging-revealed-20100917-15g7v.html).
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 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/
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.
CHIEF PRACTITIONERS OF EXTORTION
* 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 https://rossbmedia.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/cockatoo-island-offers-exciting-locations-and-sky-high-fees-2/
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.