The council knows what happened because it has the footage from a closed-circuit TV camera. It had one aimed at the taxi rank where Hunt and a number of others were gathered about 1.30am, because it has had problems there in the past.
Everyone agrees there was an “incident” the police who arrested half a dozen people, the Broncos’ management and Hunt himself.
But the specifics of what the Australian rugby league fullback might or might not have done early on the morning of Sunday, July 30, remain decidedly murky.
The Broncos’ chief executive, Bruno Cullen, said Hunt was just waiting for a taxi when a woman was squirted with water. She just happened to recognise the star footballer, and so gave his name to police, he said. Any suggestions that Hunt was personally involved in an assault were “disgraceful and irresponsible”, Mr Cullen thundered, and had the potential to damage the reputation of someone who was merely an innocent bystander.
Hunt himself was slightly less indignant: “I was in the vicinity of a fight but I didn’t start it.” As you’d expect from a first-grade rugby league player, he took a taxi and left the scene at the first sign of trouble.
To find out whether there might be any discrepancy between the footage of the incident and the Bronco accounts, Channel Seven sought access to it from Brisbane City Council under freedom of information legislation in what is emerging as a test case on CCTV footage.
The council refused on two main grounds. The first was its own policy, which says CCTV footage is released only “for court evidence”. The second is that the footage is exempt from the act under a section which protects the release of information concerning the personal affairs of a person “unless its disclosure would, on balance, be in the public interest”.
Channel Seven’s FoI editor, Michael McKinnon, has appealed against the decision. He has argued that although Brisbane City Council can have whatever policy it likes on CCTVs, such policies must be subordinate to the Queensland FoI act. He seems on reasonable ground here. The second reason is more complicated. It boils down to this: what entitlement does a person, or Hunt, have to privacy on a public street at 1.30am?
In 1993 Queensland’s former information commissioner defined “personal” as meaning the “private affairs of a person’s life”.
He said this: “As an appropriate guiding principle, the phrase extends to the kinds of information concerning the affairs of a person which a notional reasonable bystander .hs.hs. would regard as information the dissemination of which the person (whose affairs the information concerns) ought to be entitled to control.”
Put another way, the test seems to be whether an ordinary person outside the nightclub would think Hunt should be able to decide whether or not the information on the camera tape is made public.
If someone was seen heading into a psychiatrist’s office, you could readily understand an entitlement to privacy. But in Hunt’s case it is harder.
If Hunt was just an innocent bystander, as the Broncos’ boss says, then surely Hunt or the club wouldn’t give a toss about whether the footage was made public. And if events were not quite as described, if there was bad behaviour by people who are public figures, then is there a public interest in knowing that?