ABC RN Breakfast Patricia Karvelas 15 August 2019

SUBJECTS: Media freedom; Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security hearing.


SUBJECTS: Media freedom; Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security hearing.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is a member of the intelligence and security committee and he joins me on the line now. Welcome back to Breakfast.
KARVELAS: This was a fairly extraordinary statement made by ASIO, journalism being used as an attempted cover for espionage. Have you heard of anything like that?
DREYFUS: I don’t think it’s anything new that journalists have been used as a cover by foreign spy agencies, not just in this country but across the world, nor is it new that journalists should be a target of foreign spy agencies because they’re both in the information business.
But with all respect to ASIO, this inquiry that the Prime Minister set up, that the intelligence committee is now conducting, it’s not directed at that. It’s directed at how to ensure that legitimate journalists can continue to do their job without fear of going to jail simply for doing that job. It’s about trying to find a way to make sure that our legal system recognises the role that journalists and the media play in our liberal democracy.
It’s not enough for the Prime Minister to keep saying he respects press freedom when clearly we have got legal settings, legislation in Australia at the moment, that potentially allows for journalist to go to jail for doing their job. We saw it on full display yesterday with pretty much rage being directed at the media by a very senior government representative.
KARVELAS: Tell us what you are referring to there. I know, but I don’t know if all our listeners would. Tell me what you were so concerned about?
DREYFUS: I’m concerned that the two raids that occurred more than 70 days ago, the investigations relating to those raids are still continuing, that was confirmed yesterday. There was no assurance given yesterday that Annika Smethurst won’t be charged or that charges won’t be laid against ABC journalists. And the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs said to the inquiry there’s no need to change any of the laws and, by the by, I hope someone goes to jail. That’s what he said.
So that tells you plenty about this Government’s pretty dangerous attitude towards media freedom and this Government’s complete unpreparedness to do any anything about it. We now see on full display that Mr Morrison set up this inquiry just so he could say he had set up an inquiry because we’re seeing precious little indication that the government is prepared to do anything.
KARVELAS: So let’s go to this new directive from Peter Dutton. You say that the AFP confirmed yesterday, as they did, that of course journalists could still face prosecution. Do you feel like that’s at odds with this new directive to the AFP?
DREYFUS: Sure, and as we heard from other witness to the inquiry the directive is extraordinarily limited. It only deals with police investigations in relation to unauthorised disclosure of information. It doesn’t deal in anyway with other interactions that the police or other agencies might have with journalists.
KARVELAS: ASIO Deputy Director-General Heather Cook said it was difficult for anyone who was not intimately familiar with intelligence to make a judgement about how sensitive it was, and the national security risk was - clearly quite strong there. What do you make of that argument?
DREYFUS: There’s always a difficulty in the interaction between national security law and the rest of the community and saying these are difficult judgements to be made is simply stating what I think anyone that has been connected with any national security work knows.
What we want to get to in this inquiry is how there can be better protections for journalists and disappointingly, the Government couldn’t even answer simple questions about how many search warrants or how many computer access warrants or how many surveillance device warrants had been issued in relation to journalists. They are all more intrusive than the one type of warrant we do have, which is where the police or ASIO seek access to a journalist’s mobile phone data.
So there’s a long way to go. We need this Government to actually grapple with the actual problem, we need this Government to commit to changing the laws in appropriate ways and showing a preparedness to do so. And I’d say they need to rule out prosecutions of journalists, which they have still absolutely refused to do.
KARVELAS: You mention those comments by Home Affairs chief Mike Pezzullo, that he wants the leaker to go to jail. He did, to be fair, say that it had to go through the whole legal process, but that was the ultimate aim that he would like achieved. Do you have confidence in Mike Pezzullo? Does Labor support Mike Pezzullo?
DREYFUS: I don’t think it’s about whether or not I, or Labor, support Mike Pezzullo. I’m drawing attention to what I regard as intemperate comments from the secretary of a very important department.
KARVELAS: Do you want him to retract those commons?
DREYFUS: I think he should reflect on how he, as the senior national security bureaucrat in Australia, could show more understanding and more respect for the role that’s played by media and journalists in Australia. At the moment he’s not demonstrating any of that. At the moment, regrettably, he seems to say that his own national security priorities and his protection, of him, from embarrassment, is a much more important value for Australia than any value that might be attributed to journalists and journalists going about their work. He doesn’t seem to appreciate the chilling effect which many, many witnesses spoke of, the intimidatory effect of these raids occurring, or indeed the intimidatory effect of him speaking in the way in which he did at the hearing yesterday. I would be asking him to reflect on the way in which he spoke about these matters at the hearing yesterday.
KARVELAS: Do you think he was trying to intimidate yesterday?
DREYFUS: It’s not even about what he was trying to do. I’m talking about the effect, Patricia, of a very senior national security bureaucrat speaking in that way and what effect that might have on anyone dealing with journalists.
KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus we’re out of time but appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
DREYFUS: Thanks Patricia.

  • Mark Dreyfus
    published this page in Transcripts 2019-08-15 10:52:02 +1000