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 … http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/photography-bans-leave-ordinary-life-out-of-the-picture-20101017-16p0v.html

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.

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About rossbmedia

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

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

  1. Chris Tangey says:

    Ross,
    I’m coming to the view that maybe we should just call the bluff of some of these
    image nazis. Quite apart from the stupidity of restrictions per se, the onus on them is to prove you are taking commercial images beyond reasonable doubt. I would suggest the following scenarios would not pass that test in court: An Amateur, no matter how flash or grand their equipment, a Location scout, as the actual images are for research and not for publication, a Pro on holidays, no matter how grand or flash the equipment, a Pro taking file footage or stock images, as these only have the potential to become commercial (as a seed has the potential to become a tree) but they are by no definition yet commercial, simply potentially commercial, an entirely different thing. Maybe we need a Court to rule that a seed can never be defined as a tree.

    Below is the post I would have made on Geoff Strong’s piece if the %$#%$%$ Age website would let me, after several hours I gave up:

    “One of the reasons I left Victoria decades ago was my perception that that state was not just losing personal freedoms but that Victorians actually liked things that way. Is this a crack in that “group-think” mentality? Regardless, Victorians are not alone with these sorts of restrictions. Geoff mentions Uluru, let me tell you a little story about that place, whose “Ulurules” are more akin to North Korea than outback Australia.

    I run a media production and service company in Alice Springs and can verify that more than 80% of all filming permits are refused at Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park due to a mind-numbing bureaucracy . Recent filming refusals include the Royal Ballet, BBC Natural History Unit and BBC Science. One of their Lawyers sent me a threatening letter to remove an image of Kata Tjuta “place of many heads” from my website as I “wasn’t showing more than 3 heads” and this was “offensive”. All this despite the fact that Google Earth can take you anywhere in the Park you like (including sacred sites) and that 300,000 visitors a year photograph what they like from any angle and post it for all to see on the internet. We have even had a Park Ranger explain to us that they don’t want to promote the Park for tourism and that the “purpose of World heritage areas is to exclude human beings, not to include them”.

    What will get you a CRIMINAL record there? (I’m not kidding!)”rolling a stone”, “hindering a Ranger”,”paint an artwork or record sound without a permit”, “break a speed limit”,”give wrong name and address to Ranger” and just to ensure there are no protests allowed “display a sign”. Don’t believe me do you? Download the Maoist-sounding PDF “Uluru Kata-Tjuta knowledge handbook.”

    http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/publications/uluru/pubs/handbook.pdf

  2. Geoff Rehmet says:

    Further to Chris’ comments:

    As an interesting comparison, a friend of mine is currently undertaking a trip from Cape Town to London, in a Landcruiser. (Quite daring still, because a lot of the time it is just him and his girlfriend in one vehicle.) They are currently blogging their trip at the website http://www.climbafrica.co.za.
    The opportunity they have, in terms of the time spent with indigenous people like the Himba and Masai is an experience that most of us can only dream of. Fortunately, the worst “bureaucracy” they have to go through to access some of the places they are going, or to photograph people is permission from the local headman, or from the subjects themselves. I have not worked out how many countries they are travelling through, and how many national parks they are visiting.
    If they had to deal with the kind of mind-numbing bureaucracy we see at places like Uluru, their trip would probably be impossible, and they would almost certainly not be able to blog their trip as they go along.
    I am hoping that they use all their experiences and the photos they are shooting as material for a book. For most of us, reading an account of a trip like that is as close as we will get to experiencing many of these places. The efforts of people like Parks Australia are rapidly making accounts of adventures like this impossible.
    We need to remember that mounting an expedition like this is impossible without some sort of commercial assistance, whether it be sponsorship from equipment suppliers, rights deals with broadcasters etc. It is simply impossible for most mere mortals to marshal the finances necessary for trips like this without some sort of financial return on the trip. Imposing restrictions on photography and artistic expression severely limit the means of these adventurers, many of whom actually have fairly limited financial means.

  3. Harry Phillips says:

    It maybe a generational thing or it maybe a regional thing but when I was growing up she would be called a “tattle tale”….. uuuhhh don’t say it too many times it starts going weird in your mind.

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