My colleagues and I understand, and share, many of the concerns that have been raised.
All Australians, as well as friends in democracies around the world, were shocked to see police raiding the offices of the ABC and the home of a respected political journalist.
Disturbingly, Scott Morrison and his senior ministers said that they were “not troubled” by the police raids and the intimidation of journalists trying to do their jobs holding the Australian Government to account. But these police raids on journalists did not come out of nowhere.
Over the last eight years, the Liberals have been undermining accountability and promoting a culture of cover-up by:
- refusing to answer even basic questions from journalists or members of the public;
- repeatedly ignoring their legal obligations to provide information under freedom of information laws;
- using the criminal law to intimidate people who embarrass them, including journalists and whistleblowers; and
- trying to sweep scandal after scandal under the carpet.
Labor supports legislative change to better protect freedom of the press and public interest journalism, and to enhance whistleblower protections and government accountability.
For example, Labor supports the bipartisan recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to (among other things):
- improve whistleblower protections in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013;
- prioritise the promotion and training of a uniform freedom of information culture across all government departments; and
- introduce stronger protections for journalists, including a new requirement that warrants in relation to journalists or media organisations must be contestable by an independent public interest advocate before a senior judge.
The Morrison Government claims to support these proposals too but those are just more empty words – these bipartisan recommendations were made in August 2020, and have been ignored by Mr Morrison ever since.
On the question of parliamentary oversight of intelligence and security agencies, Labor is also committed to expanding the oversight role of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. Labor Senator Jenny McAllister has even introduced a Private Senator’s Bill, but – regrettably – the Morrison Government refuses to support it.
On the issue of government accountability and oversight more generally, Labor is also committed to establishing an independent, powerful and properly resourced National Anti-Corruption Commission, with all the powers of a standing Royal Commission into serious and systemic corruption in the federal government. You can find out more here: https://www.alp.org.au/policies/national-anti-corruption-commission
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is currently undertaking more than a dozen inquiries into existing national security legislation, proposals for new national security laws and a number of other issues. Given your interest in these matters, you may wish to make a submission to one or more of these inquiries. A full list can be found here: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Intelligence_and_Security