Fifty bare all in protest against beach cover-up

SYDNEY: More than 50 people stripped yesterday in a naked protest against the revocation of the 17-year right to bathe nude on Reef Beach to the north of Sydney Harbour.

Under the watch of three beach inspectors and a battery of media, the protesters bared all during a rally calling for the restoration of their right to use the isolated 100-metre beach near Manly, given over to nude bathing in 1976.

Activist Mr Bob Reed said about 300 people turned out for the rally, which was addressed by New South Wales state parliamentarian Mr Richard Jones.

''I do not think the human body is obscene,'' said Mr Jones, a member of the NSW upper house.

Mr Jones and Mr Reed were the first of 20 people to be issued with a summons for removing their clothes on a public beach and face a fine of A$20 (HK$105).

But Mr Reed said he would fight the summons and declared yesterday's action ''merely the start of our campaign to keep Reef Beach.'' Nude bathing at the beach was sanctioned by then-NSW premier Mr Neville Wran 17 years ago after similar beach actions against prohibition, though it remains officially illegal.

Sydney has several other beaches designated ''unclad''.

Manly council revoked Reef Beach's status yesterday, with the support of the state member for Manly, Mr Peter Macdonald.

The state government last year declared it would not reimpose the ban, but said the council had the power to do so.

''We are confident the courts of NSW will uphold the right of people at Reef Beach to go nude,'' Mr Reed said, adding the Free Beach Association intended to challenge every summons issued, costing Manly council at least A$1,000 to enforce each fine.

''They are using a Draconian act written in 1919, which has no bearing on the attitudes of today and we intend to continue to come to Reef Beach and defy this ban,'' Mr Reed said.

He said a survey conducted by the association of 5,000 Manly residents revealed 81.6 per cent were in favour of allowing nude bathing at Reef Beach.

A second protest rally has been called for today ''and every weekend after this until they back down''.