Nov 192006

As a matter of habit, I listen to Radio National programs in the form of Podcasts. Two reasons. Podcasting is convenient method of lulling me off to sleep after a mentally stressful day, and I enjoy several RN programs, not the least of which is “Late Night Live”. Without the benefit of podcast files, I’d be missing out on what I consider to be important issues, such as this program on Phillip Adams’ show.

 If you’ve clicked on the link, you’ll know what I’m referring to. If not, I’ll enlighten you. A Bill defining Human Rights in Australia. The debate/discussion was sharply defined and feisty. Particularly from Bob Carr. Something of a surprise. I personally found some interesting points in favour of the nay case, however I find myself still very much in favour of a documentary format laying out specifically what our rights as human beings under Australian law really are. I’m afraid I find much of the nay case’s arguments of the judicial seeking somehow to usurp the legislative arm of government to be simple fearful scare tactics, propagated in the main, as in Bob Carr’s case, by politicians.

The program dealt with a draft document put together by Spencer Zifcak Associate Professor of Law at La Trobe University on behalf of the New Matilda organisation. I’m yet to completely read the draft, but given that I am already in favour of having such a document recorded under Australian law, and my agreement with the bulk of the yea case in the LNL debate, I suspect my understanding would not be greatly awry. That said, I do intend to read and understand the draft.

This is a topical subject, especially for someone such as myself who likes to indulge in photography of people in everyday life situations. In public. I recently had an occasion at a nightclub where having taken…..or attempted to take…..several shots of a young lady on door duty, I was approached by security with some rather disturbing, if unstated threats about taking photos of people without their permission. The really disturbing issue from my perspective being that as a photographer, I have every right to photograph whomever and whatever I so choose, regardless of permissions. The law in Australia allows me, or rather, doesn’t disallow me. There are numerous sources of re-assurance for photographers where confirmation of what I refer to can be obtained. Like here, for example. Also this site. It’s easy to uncover similar experiences to mine and the research already undertaken by fellow photographers. Just Google ‘Photographer’s Rights’.

Circumstances such as this, while narrow, demonstrate just how vulnerable we in the public sector really are without a properly defined Bill of Human Rights in Australia. Neither those of us attempting to exercise our supposed rights, or those attempting to protect the supposed rights of others, really know the boundaries within which we may operate with or without impunity. Scattered fragments of obscure legal precedents do not make for a complete understanding of an individuals rightful boundaries and expectations in a modern society. Australia needs a Bill of Human Rights. For far more reasons than satisfying the mores of photographers like myself. Consider the draconian legislation passed over recent months covering sedition and treason.

Australia needs a Bill of Human Rights.

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