Sydney University maintain 6 month access ban on SAM community media post federal election
Topic: independent media
We recently corresponded with the senior folks at Sydney University as follows, and refer especially the part in bold near the end. Photos are all from the great pro education rally 2nd May 2007 Sydney University front lawns and down Broadway meeting other campus groups and into the CBD. One image is a rally organiser Corinne Grant formerly of the Glasshouse abc tv show. There was very little mainstream Big Media coverage of the event, as expected, hence our attendance:
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 1:19 PM
Subject: Tom McLoughlin community media 2nd May 2007 USYD campus student education rally
Professor Jeremy, USYD
CC Richard Fisher, general counsel USYD
Michael Conaty, NSW Ombudsman, investigating officer
3rd December 2007
Breach of norms of free press community media on campus at student education rally 2nd May 2007
I refer to your letter of Nov 15 2007 offering to reinstate my general public licence to attend the campus.
Thanks for your contact just prior to the federal election. I am copying in Richard Fisher based on previous exchange of correspondence and also Michael Conaty at the Ombudsman's Office for reasons that will be apparent.
1. My first letter was 2nd May 07 via electronic email with revealing photos therein. USYD have only responded 6 months later by your letter of 15 November 07. .... Frankly I don't buy the convenient excuses about miscommunication there at USYD. A cynic would say this was only due to the eventual involvement of Conaty at the Ombudsman's office and on that we hang our hat.
2. With due respect you start out 2nd paragraph asserting the "private property" status of the front lawns there. To my mind (High Distinction in Land Registration at ANU in 1985!) this looks like shallow posturing. Everyone knows the Uni is massively publicly subsidised thus the reliance not on private trespass laws but the statutory Inclosed Lands Act just like Darling Harbour and Opera House etc which is your legal right. So yes it is quasi private, but conversely it is quasi public. Hence the whole public licence/termination regulatory regime.
3. That being said I prefer to not bandy legal niceties of land tenure with you. I'm busy, no doubt you are to.
4. The truth of the incident whether in your reports or not is that at law I don't need permission 'to photograph without consent' as you put it. Further, to be entirely accurate I was asked my name as I moved on to the gathering of students and their rally which was the next newsworthy location some 30 metres away. Your man tried to run interference by holding me up to get my name in his little note book, and I said "You can walk with me. I am working." He didn't follow me into the midst of the gathering student protester crowd. Quite wisely I thought.
5. Some 60 minutes later I was surrounded by 4 security as I tried to get my bicycle to leave with the rally. They had been photographing and monitoring my community media work all this time as evidenced by my record and were clearly stalking me for the opportunity to pounce. Only well after the rally was moving off did they demand my name and details. There was some clarifying debate about their legal power and then I gave my solicitor's card with ID. I repeatedly answered the question "Do you have a lawful reason to be on the campus?" with the incredulous response "I'm here to report the student rally for community media. I'm the reporter and editor for Sydney Alternative Media.com."
6. There can be no mistaking the motive and intention of these security staff. It was straight out oppression of free media coverage of the student rally, and of their method of dealing with that student gathering. Very unimpressive in a democracy actually. Your letter 'as you are advised' is in reality an impertinent deception to suggest otherwise.
7. I submit the cancellation of public licence was because of my answer of my purpose for attendance being community media, not the provision or not of ID. That looks quite a dishonest rationale. My ID was provided as evidenced by the cancellation notice itself. Not to mention the menacing threats to arrest me, while standing over and around me simply trying to continue coverage of the rally. In fact it looks highly consistent with the facts that the threats to arrest me were a clumsy attempt to prevent coverage of the strong rally down Broadway.
8. Without doubt given my solicitor status and stated community media role the Termination of Licence Notice was demonstrably not "reasonable in all the circumstances". Again with due respect this is legal bluster and face saving.
9. Having said that, I accept that you are most likely offering in good faith "to withdraw this Notice on receipt of a written undertaking from you to comply with the reasonable inquiries and directions of the University's authorised officers in future". I do so undertake with this email correspondence and without prejudice as to what has occurred on 2nd May 07. On that we do disagree.
10. I am not so naive in this day an age not to accept the proper role of security especially for a vulnerable student body and diverse international concerns. That's accepted. My point remains upon presentation of the solicitor photo ID card that was the time for your over zealous and frankly anti publicity security staff to back off and let me proceed on my way. It could easily have been dealt with by correspondence to resolve any future concerns.
In conclusion Professor, I do believe the USYD remains quite exposed to the claim of staff seeking to constrain public reportage of a potentially very embarrassing student rally (which actually got minimal coverage hence my interest to provide community media profile) some 2 weeks before the highly sensitive federal budget. That we submit is the awkward subtext you cannot avoid.
On the other hand it would be somewhat foolish in diplomatic terms to not acknowledge that since November 24 2007 we do indeed live in somewhat kinder times in terms of debate and dissent. At least that's my provisional view. May it continue to consolidate.
I have submitted to your general counsel an estimate of my legal time/costs in seeking to have what we say is a wrongful termination of licence reversed, and unresponsiveness for a good 6 months in the critical pre federal election period. I press that modest estimate with the University (eg a gratuity/no admission of wrongdoing on your part), to cover my time and effort. In this way I would be willing to withdraw my complaint to the NSW Ombudsman for the perceived legal injury and embarrassment caused in the course of our community media work, as well as the approximately 6 hours now of legal time drafting and settling correspondence about this issue.
Your continuing ban on my attendance at the campus is noted which will take same into its 7th month and to my mind compounds the potential quantum of my legal compensation including via the Ombudsman's office.
Please do not hesitate to contact the writer on tel. 9558 9551 or 0410 558838 to discuss any of the matters above, or by return email (note updated server address).
Posted by editor
at 11:47 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007 2:47 PM EADT