Mark Dreyfus MP

Member for Isaacs
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Annika Smethurst AFP Ruling - Mark Dreyfus QC MP

27 May 2020

SUBJECTS: AFP ruling on Annika Smethurst; Malka Leifer.



SUBJECTS: AFP ruling on Annika Smethurst; Malka Leifer.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's welcome news that journalist Annika Smethurst is no longer going to be prosecuted. This is news that we've been waiting for, for a long time and it's now clear that, she at least, is not going to be prosecuted just for doing her job. But this matter is not yet over. There are two other journalists for whom the threat of criminal prosecution is still sitting over their heads, and that is Dan Oakes and Sam Clark of the ABC.

The Government needs to end the threat of prosecution against them, because only then, when not only Annika Smethurst is not going to be charged, but also the ABC journalists are not going to be charged, will it be clear that the chilling effect on Australian journalism, the chilling effect on Australian media, has been brought to an end.

I know that the Government wants to wash its hands of this matter. The Government wants to pretend that it had nothing to do with the investigation of Ms Smethurst, with the investigation of the ABC. The Government wants to pretend that it had nothing to do with the unlawful raid that was conducted on Annika Smethursts home - and it's very clear that it was an unlawful raid. The High Court of Australia held that this was an unlawful raid.

Its worth recalling that the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Morrison, said that he was not troubled by the law being enforced. But we didn't hear anything from him when it became clear that the law had not been upheld in the case of the raid that was conducted on Ms Smethursts home, and we should have heard from him.

This matter is not over for another reason. We still need to hear from the Government that it is going to change the law. The law needs to be changed to make it clear that journalists in Australia are not to be prosecuted, are not to be threatened with the criminal law just for doing their jobs. It's a very important principle. It's not the current state of Australian law. These raids, and the threat of prosecution that's been hanging over these journalists for many months, made it clear that that is a risk under Australian law. I call on the Government to now make it clear that the law is going to be changed, I say it again, the law is going to be changed, to make sure that journalists can not be prosecuted simply for doing their jobs.

Before we go to questions, Id just like to mention another matter that we've had news of today, and that is the very welcome news that Malka Leifer, who stands accused in Australia of very serious child sex offences, has been held by an Israeli court to be fit for trial, fit for extradition proceedings. And it's a tribute to the immense tireless campaigning of the three sisters, Dassi, Nicole and Elly, its a tribute to their efforts, that its got to this stage.

I now hope, and we would all hope in Australia, that the extradition proceeding will now be brought to a speedy conclusion and that Ms Leifer will be returned to Australia to face justice in an Australian court.

JOURNALIST: The investigation, the AFP investigation, began back in April 2018. Are you frustrated by how long it's taken to come to this?

DREYFUS: It's very concerning that it's taken so long to have Ms Smethurst cleared. As I said in my earlier remarks, its chilling on all media activity in Australia that any journalist is threatened, any journalist is at risk of being prosecuted. That has been the position for Ms Smethurst for almost a year since the raid was conducted on her home, and it is still the case that arising from the raids conducted the following day on the ABC, that Dan Oakes and Sam Clark are still exposed to the threat of prosecution. Until they too are cleared, that chilling effect on Australian journalism is going to continue and it will continue into the future until the law is changed.

JOURNALIST: How quickly would you like to see that law changed?

DREYFUS: I think the Government should have already moved to change the law. Instead, what we saw last year from Mr Morrison was to refer the matter to a parliamentary committee for inquiry. That parliamentary committee still hasn't reported. It's provided a convenient excuse for Mr Morrison not to act. But I would urge him to prepare legislation right now and change the law so that Australian journalists are not at risk of being prosecuted, with criminal charges, simply for doing their jobs.

Thanks very much.