Mark Dreyfus MP

Member for Isaacs
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Annika Smethurst High Court Ruling Doorstop - Mark Dreyfus QC MP

15 April 2020

SUBJECT: High Court ruling on Annika Smethurst raid;Health tracking app.



SUBJECT: High Court ruling on Annika Smethurst raid;Health tracking app.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Labor welcomes the decision of the High Court to find unlawful the raid on journalist Annika Smethursts home last year.

We need to remember that when the raid on Ms Smethursts home occurred, that the raid on the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation occurred, this was an international embarrassment for Australia.

We need to remember the glib words that Mr Morrison used at the time when he said that he was never troubled by our laws being upheld. Well, Mr Morrison now should be troubled. He should be very troubled because the High Court of Australia has unanimously held that the raid conducted on Annika Smethursts home was unlawful.

This ought to be a matter of great concern to every Australian because what we need to see from this government is something that upholds the freedom of the press in this country, that upholds Australias right to know about what government is doing. Thats the issue that is right at the heart of the raid that was conducted on Annika Smethursts home. Thats the issue that caused the international embarrassment for Australia, it is that Australia was seen, in the middle of last year, in June last year, had become a country where the government could send police to raid the homes of journalists, send police to raid the offices of the national broadcaster, to pursue protection of the governments political objectives.

Lets remember what Annika Smethursts story was about. It was about the potential use of one of Australias overseas spy agencies, the Australian Signals Directorate, to spy on Australians at home. Thats what her story was about it. That was obviously an embarrassment to Mr Dutton and to the Government and thats why they pursued this.

The Government now needs to rule out the prosecution of Ms Smethurst and while they are about it they should be ruling out the prosecution of the ABC journalists who are caught up in the other raid.

The other thing thats clear from this decision of the High Court is that while the court has ruled that the raid on Ms Smethursts home was unlawful it has not prevented the police from holding onto this material. It remains the case that police could possibly use this material in a subsequent criminal prosecution of Ms Smethurst. Thats something that the Government can now put to rest. It should rule out the prosecution of Ms Smethurst or any other journalists for simply doing their job.

We need to be clear Labor has a major difference with the Government here. Labors view is that journalists should never be prosecuted simply for doing their job. Labor believes that the Australian public does have a right to know about the activities of government and Labors very firm view is that there needs to be substantial law reform in this area. Things like contested warrants, protection of whistleblowers, better enforcement of our freedom of information laws, better defamation laws. All of these are areas of law reform which again weve been reminded by this decision of the High Court today are still unfinished business.

There is just one other matter Id like to raise and that is the Governments proposal today, revealed in the Nine Newspapers, which is to use a tracking app in the current health crisis that Australia is facing.

Id like to say that in order for this tracking app to work there will need to be complete public confidence, trust in the public that their privacy is going to be protected if such a tracking app is used.

The tracking app will only work if there is very widespread uptake on the part of the public so that a very high proportion of Australians are prepared to put this app on their phone. The Governments record in this area is not a good one. They havent proved able to build confidence, for example, in My Health record, the electronic preservation of Australias health records and throughout this crisis Id have to say the Government has not proved very good at taking Australians into their confidence.

It will need to do a great deal better on this tracking app because I say again, its not going to work unless Australians have trust, have confidence, that their privacy is going to be protected if they upload this app onto their phone.