Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Motion – Photography in the Chamber

I wish to speak on motion 552 standing in my name. This motion goes on to say: That this house notes that: (1) the Legislative Council functions on behalf of all Victorians and therefore all proceedings should be subject to public scrutiny; (2) a recent Australian election survey conducted by the Australian National University of more than 2100 Australians found just 25 per cent of respondents believed people in government could be trusted; (3) fair media coverage of parliamentary proceedings is a critical part of democracy; (4) visual and audio recording and still photography are permitted in the Legislative Council chamber by accredited media organisations and individuals only; (5) removing certain restrictions on photography in the Australian Senate has ensured a greater sense of transparency in the federal Parliament; (6) extending the permissions for photography in the Legislative Council chamber is just one of many measures which may restore some faith in the political process; and requires the Procedure Committee to inquire into, consider and report, by no later than 25 November 2021, on changes to the rules and regulations relating to photography in the Legislative Council chamber to ensure greater transparency. This motion is about transparency, it is about modernisation, but it is fundamentally about allowing the public to be more connected to the democratic process. This motion seeks to extend the permissions for photography in the Legislative Council chamber to beyond the media. As we are, photography is allowed in this place but by accredited persons only. And why is that? Why isn’t it allowed by the general public? I have been asked the same question by many people, including many schoolkids visiting this place when they could, and I have never been able to answer or give them any reasonable reply. Sometimes I reply that I do not know and it is just what the rule is. No-one has ever been able to explain to me why this is the case, but in all honesty I do not believe that the status quo is satisfactory. Why is public photography banned in the public gallery? If the answer is that you do not want to get photographed picking your nose, then do not pick your nose. If you do not want to get photographed falling asleep, do not fall asleep. If they are the main reasons for not allowing photography, then they are pretty thin. Is it tradition? If so, it is not unusual for traditions in this place to be superseded. As I perused the photographs of previous presidents outside in the halls just around the corner, I noticed that it was not that long ago that the presidents wore full-bottomed wigs. This has since been dispensed with, and I suppose thankfully so for some of the presidents in the modern era. Although, Acting President Bourman, I would not mind seeing you in a full-bottomed wig right now; it might be some improvement. But that is what the essence of this motion is: the modern era. It is just one of the many measures which may restore some faith in the political process. Imagine the great photos family and friends could have taken when Ms Watt did her maiden speech recently in this place. Imagine the photos the public gallery could take when important laws are passed in this place—for instance, the dying with dignity laws. When Mr Jennings made his farewell speech, I sat just over there. I saw his family and friends sitting in the public gallery, and I thought, ‘How good would it be for them to take some photos for their own memories of Mr Jennings in his final speech to Parliament?’. Imagine being a schoolkid and being able to take photos of your political representative in action— becoming more engaged in the democratic process rather than just sitting up there soaking in the atmosphere. It is about the public and in particular it is about our children becoming more connected with the political process. We need to regularly look at ways to modernise the Parliament, and at the end of the day this motion is a referral to the Procedure Committee. Unlike other committees currently operating in this place and the other place, the Procedure Committee does not have a lot on its books as we speak, but they do a fantastic job. I know Mr Limbrick had concerns about people’s privacy when sitting in the public gallery, and these arguments and issues would be fleshed out in such a referral. George Bernard Shaw famously stated, and I quote: You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’ This place could set a precedent and be the very first Parliament to allow photography by the public from the public gallery. I urge members to support this motion in the interests of transparency, democracy and promoting community engagement, and I commend this motion to the house.


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