I don’t know much about Australian politics, and I barely give a rodent’s rump about American politics, to be honest. But, from what I’ve gathered, Peta Credlin, chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is a bit of a hot topic with our friends down under. (What’s with you Commonwealth countries always electing a Tony into office anyway?)
Yesterday was no exception as Credlin demanded AAP photographer Tracey Nearmy delete images she had captured of the staffer at a media event hosted in the Endeavour Hills police station in Melbourne.
The incident happened when Nearmy left the designated media zone (complete with lollipops and dancing bears, we assume) to quickly snap some images of Credlin who was standing in a hallway where members of the media were being shuttled back and forth. Upon realizing she had been photographed, Credlin started making what Nearmy called a “robust request” that the images be deleted post haste.
In video footage that Nearmy captured using a GoPro attached to her camera, Credlin, who by her tone is second in command to God, can be heard saying, “Sorry, I would like it deleted please. … This is a secure area. I’m in a secure area. This is a secure environment. I want the photographs deleted. … This is a police area. I was deliberately not in that room because that was the media room.” …to which I must wonder, Why did God hire such a paranoid person as his second in command?
Nearmy had to explain multiple times that she must call her photo editor before making such a move and, in the end, did NOT delete the photos.
Prior to today, I knew very little about Australia except that they have kangaroos, boomerangs, and deadly stingrays. But, looking into Australian law regarding photography makes this even more laughable. A few excerpts from the Art Law Centre of Australia summarizing photographers’ rights state:
There are no publicity or personality rights in Australia, and there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image.
It is generally possible to take photographs in a public place without asking permission. This extends to taking photographs of buildings, sites and people.
There is no restriction on taking photographs of people on private property from public property. According to Victoria Park Racing and Recreation Grounds Co Ltd v Taylor (1937) there is no freedom from view, so people who are photographed on their property from a public location have no legal claim against you if what is captured in the photograph can be seen from the street.
So, using my brilliant powers of deduction I came to the conclusion that Peta Credlin didn’t have a leg to stand on when making such a ridiculous request. The event was being held in a police station, an institution run with taxpayer dollars (or Pesos, or whatever you blokes have).
However, the ALCA goes on to say:
Restrictions may also be imposed by Local Councils on premises under their control…
According to reports, the Victoria police had cleared only certain areas of the building for media use. As a spokesman for the prime minister said, “For obvious operational reasons, video and stills footage were permitted inside those areas only.” But, that’s a different matter entirely from violating a legal statute.
So, was Nearmy breaking any actual laws or simply wandering outside the “safe zone?” There are no reports of Nearmy being detained, arrested, questioned, or fined, and since her images of Credlin appear in the media, it’s obvious that her camera card wasn’t confiscated and locked in a vault with an army of wombats.
By all accounts, what Nearmy did was perfectly legal. So why would a high-ranking staff member of such a prominent public official be so testy about being photographed at a media event where her boss is the guest of honor? My guess: a simple case of megalomania.