Australian Federal Court Overturns Ban on Live Aerial Broadcasts of Melbourne Protests

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au
September 23, 2021 Updated: September 23, 2021

A temporary restriction on Australian media flying helicopters over Melbourne to live broadcast unrest in the city over mandatory COVID-19 vaccines and health restrictions has been overturned by the Federal Court on Thursday, according to local media.

On Wednesday, Victoria Police applied to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to temporarily restrict air space above Melbourne’s central business district (CBD). A police statement said this was for operational and safety reasons related to their response to protest activity.

“It’s a victory for common sense and it should have never had gotten to this point,” said Craig McPherson, director of news for the Seven Network, according to News Corp’s The Australian.

The temporary ban was implemented on late Wednesday following three days of protests.

It was alleged that protesters were using the media’s live aerial broadcasts to stay ahead of police movements on the ground, allowing the protests to evade capture for several hours.

However, following outrage at the restriction by media heads, Victoria Police later said media could apply for permits to operate helicopters over the CBD to gather footage provided they allow a 60-minute delay before broadcasting.

“This is because protestors were actively monitoring aerial live streams, compromising the police operation and putting the safety of members at risk,” the Victoria Police statement read.

The Australian reported that Channel 9, Channel 7, and the ABC challenged the CASA decision in the Federal Court on Thursday, arguing the restriction affected their ability to live broadcast the Melbourne protests.

Legal counsel Will Houghton QC represented all three broadcasters, with the local outlet reporting that he told the hearing CASA wasn’t authorised to assign power to Victoria Police to use specifically against the media.

“The media being the eyes and the ears of the public, we would submit, cannot be muzzled or censored in that task by having to go to Victoria Police first to seek an approval each time we want to lift our helicopter into the air for the dissemination of news around the country,” he said.

“Secondly it can’t be censored by Victoria Police by a refusal of approval when operations are proceeding within the city of Melbourne.”

Houghton also argued that everyday citizens had a right to know what was happening right now in their city to better inform their daily decisions.

Peter Hanks QC, representing CASA, told the court he would require more time to gather evidence for his client.

Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia, with a background in screenwriting and documentary. Contact him at caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au