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John Passant

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Photos and freedom – in some countries …

“I didn’t know that taking holiday snaps was illegal in some countries.”  That’s the snappy line from smartraveller in Foreign Affairs.

I checked the site and I couldn’t find any warnings against taking photos in Australia – Pine Gap to be precise.

Rudd Labor recently amended the law to make sure that people who took photos of Pine Gap were jailed or more likely to be jailed.

Pine Gap is a US spy base. It provides a lot of useful information to the Americans, including vital material for and during the invasion of Iraq.

The spy base (as well as our invading troops) means that we as a nation have contributed to the deaths of 1 million Iraqis, deaths that resulted from the invasion and the forces it unleashed.

So if we take photos of Pine Gap we could be in trouble.

But there is no trouble apparently for photographers from the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.

Yesterday Tibetans held a rally outside the embassy, commemorating the 50th anniversary of a nationalist uprising against the Chinese overlords.

An apparatchik from the Embassy stood behind Australian police lines and photographed those demonstrating.  This enraged some in the crowd.

The apparatchik withdrew, but his mates continued taking photos from the roof of the Embassy overlooking the demo.

Presumably the dictatorship will use the photos to identify and punish relatives of those who were demonstrating.

Rudd hasn’t uttered a word of condemnation, either in Mandarin or English.

Then again, given it was Rudd who reinforced the criminality of photography at Pine Gap, perhaps he recognises some kindred ‘freedom loving’ spirits in the photographers from the Embassy.



Comment from David
Time March 11, 2009 at 11:58 pm

What would you have Rudd do, John?

Comment from John
Time March 12, 2009 at 12:04 am


Re Pine Gap, I’d close it down. Rudd obviously won’t do that.

So I’d want him at least to decriminalise protest activity.

As to the Embassy photographers, I’d want him to pressure the Chinese to return the photos and not put pressure on any relatives, and go public with his complaints, emphasising that in Australia we have the right to protest without any adverse repercussions.

Comment from David
Time March 12, 2009 at 12:40 am

The Chinese are well within their rights to photograph people who are putting themselves on public display.

Rudd has already made several public statements with regard to Chinese human rights. Absent any particular abuses becoming apparent with regard to this particular issue, one wonders what would be gained if Rudd reiterated this stance.

Comment from John
Time March 12, 2009 at 6:02 am

Why are they taking photos? To intimidate them.

Chinalco wants to buy into Rio Tinto. Rudd could use that as leverage to protect the relatives of those demonstrating.

And clearly photographing the demonstrators is an attempt to stop them demonstrating.

This appears to me to be bordering on the criminal.

I think the right to demonstrate has greater precedence than the ‘right’ to take photos as part of an attempt to quieten the demonstrators.

What if the consequences of demonstrating in Australia are the arrest of or taking other actions against people in Tibet?

That is completely unacceptable to me. Rudd should act to protect those possibly at threat because of the actions of the Embassy photographers.

His lack of action says to me he values money above people.

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