Mark Dreyfus MP

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Media Freedom - Nothing Has Changed - Mark Dreyfus QC MP

The latest submission on press freedom by the Morrison Government to the Intelligence and Security Committee changes nothing even if adopted, it would still leave journalists facingthe threat of prosecution and jail just for doing their job.

SENATOR THE HON KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES


MARK DREYFUS
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS


MEDIA FREEDOM NOTHING HAS CHANGED

The latest submission on press freedom by the Morrison Government to the Intelligence and Security Committee changes nothing even if adopted, it would still leave journalists facingthe threat of prosecution and jail just for doing their job.

A submission by the Australian Federal Police Commissioner and Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security proposes a new, but optional, alternative investigative action before the AFP raid journalists and media organisations.

Under the proposal, the AFP could apply to an independent authority for a notice to produce. Such a notice could require a journalist or media organisation to hand over material in the context of an investigation of an unauthorised disclosure of Commonwealth information.

It is already the case that search warrants are issued by an independent issuing authority such as a magistrate. And nothing in the proposed Notice to Produce Framework appears to limit the ability of law enforcement to apply for a search warrant.

In short, the Governments proposal appears to be that:

  • As a matter of law, police could use the notice to produce framework as an alternative to executing a search warrant in some circumstances.
  • As a matter of policy, police should use the notice to produce framework as an alternative to a search warrant in some circumstances.
  • But police would not be required to use the notice to produce framework as an alternative to a search warrant in any circumstances.

Nothing has changed - journalists like Dan Oakes, Sam Clark and Annika Smethurst are today still facing the prospect of being charged, or even jailed, just for doing their jobs;

Most significantly, the new power could only be used as an alternative to search warrants. The Governments submission does not even mention interception warrants, computer access warrants, surveillance device warrants or any of the other covert powers that can currently be used to investigate journalists for doing their job.

The Governments true attitude to press freedom was demonstrated at this mornings Intelligence and Security Committee hearing where it was revealed that Home Affairs had been sitting on its submission to the Press Freedom Inquiry for months delaying this important inquiry while offering nothing of any substance.

Unlike the Morrison Government, Labor believes in freedom of the press and the publics right to know.

Unlike the Morrison Government, Labor does not believe that law enforcement agencies should be raiding journalists just because they are embarrassing the government.

A strong and independent media is vital to holding governments to account, and Labor will continue to fight to defend and to strengthen press freedom through this inquiry.

Security agencies do need the powers to protect us, but that must be balanced with the publics right to know and the ability of journalists to inform the public and keep the government accountable.Protecting the Australian people, and our economy, from the pernicious effects of government corruption and nepotism is also critical to the health of our nation.

Labor came out in support of the Australias Right to Know campaign as soon as it launched.

It is up to the Morrison Government, as the government of the day, to introduce legislation and progress it through the Parliament.

Labor has made clear our commitment to freedom of the press and the publics right to know and we expect the Government to quickly bring forward appropriate legislation that addresses the concerns of the Australias Right to Know coalition

FRIDAY, 28 FEBRUARY 2020