This morning’s Age
has another story for the “it can’t happen here – oops, yes it can”
file. Members of the Geelong Camera Club have fallen foul of the police
for taking photographs of industrial sites.

Anyone who travelled (or even read travel stories) during the Cold War
era will immediately recognise what’s going on. Throughout the Soviet
bloc, as still in some of its remnants today, photography of anything
that could possibly be of military importance, including factories and
railway stations, was strictly prohibited. There are many stories of
unsuspecting tourists being arrested or having film confiscated.

Yesterday Moscow, today Geelong. The camera club’s Hans Kawitzki
recalls what happened when he was photographing, from outside the
fence, “a cluster of spherical gas storage cylinders attached to the
Shell oil refinery”:

“… the next thing a security guard arrived and demanded
to know what I was doing. I told him I was taking photos for a club
competition. He told me to stop and said he would record my number

“About an hour or so later, at home, two police came to my door. They
told me to stay away from industrial things and to let the camera club
members know they were to stay away from sensitive areas.”

To clarify matters, the club asked for a list of installations that shouldn’t be photographed, but, according to The Age,
“their request was refused on the grounds that such information was
secret.” As the club’s vice-president Frank Sady said, “If this is now
happening in Australia, it means the terrorists have won.”

Victorian police minister Tim Holding tried to play down the incident,
acknowledging that “there was no law prohibiting people taking photos
in a public place.” But the local police chief inspector was
unrepentant: “While they are not breaking any law, if you take photos
(of industry) in the current climate don’t be surprised to be asked by
police why you are doing it.”