With the currently almost endemic proliferation in Australian society of audio- and video-recording mobile phones, and the recent announcement by CASA of the relaxation of laws and regulations around the use of surveillance drones in Australian airspace, perhaps it’s time we all sat down to have a good hard rethink about some of our rules around privacy in this country.
At the moment, things are somewhat out of kilter. For example, while it’s always been illegal to record a private telephone conversation in New South Wales unless you’ve got a warrant authorising you to do it, in Queensland you can secretly record even the most private conversation, provided you’re a party to the call. Yet even in Queensland, as in other jurisdictions all around Australia, there has never been the slightest embargo on anyone video-recording someone else in public entirely without their permission.
It’s a curious anomaly, partly due perhaps to the fact that until relatively recent times few people had ready access to a video-recording capability. Nowadays of course, it’s everywhere, installed in every mobile device. And there has been no shortage of budding cinematographers ready, willing and anxious to employ it to document the indiscretions of their fellow citizens.
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This week the controversial England football manager “Big”Sam Allardyce announced “entrapment has won” after he was embarrassingly recorded by undercover Daily Telegraph reporters posing as Far East businessmen, giving them advice on how to “get around” player transfer rules. Closer to home, here in Queensland we’ve recently seen the entire Greyhound racing industry brought to its knees by video footage secretly recorded on private property by unauthorised intruders, panned as unlawfully obtained and thrown out of court by one judge, but accepted by another. And anybody playing in the NRL can readily confirm these days you just can’t get away with anything, from urinating in a public place to feigning fornication with a furry friend, without someone recording every detail of the dirty deed for publication in whatever media will pay the price.
Everywhere we go, in every building and on every street corner in the country, CCTV is watching us. It may be a good thing, or it may be bad, but to aficionados of Orwell’s 1984 it’s always felt a little bit unsettling. Now, with the heralded new aerial invasion by squadrons of flying drones equipped with low-cost, lightweight pro cam video recorders, it’s calculated to get positively, downright weird.
For more information on laws in Queensland, view our video on recording conversations and interactions with police here.
Chris Nyst, Gold Coast Lawyer, Novelist and Film Maker