SUBJECT/S: AFP Raids; PJCIS Inquiry; Protection for Journalists and public’s right to know
SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY 13TH AUGUST 2019
SUBJECT/S: AFP Raids; PJCIS Inquiry; Protection for Journalists and public’s right to know
LAURA JAYES: Joining me now is the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Mr Dreyfus thanks so much for your time. How did we get to this point where Australia has some of the worst press freedom laws in the Western world?
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think all Australians are shocked, some 60 days ago, to see raids being conducted by the Australian Federal Police on a journalist's home and on the headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and that's why, rightly Mr Morrison has given the intelligence committee the job of looking at our laws to see whether or not press freedom, the public's right to know, are adequately protected. I think there's a problem with the way that the Government's been approaching this. I think that there's a problem with the Government not being prepared to rule out prosecuting journalists simply for doing their job, and I'm concerned Laura that we don't seem to have, even now, from the submissions that the government departments have made to this inquiry, any acceptance by the Government that there actually needs to be some change.
JAYES: You said that the PJCIS is the right vehicle but that wasn’t Labor’s position a couple of weeks ago, you wanted to separate bipartisan committee. What's changed?
DREYFUS: Under no circumstance is the Intelligence Committee the right place for this inquiry to be conducted. I'm not suggesting that for a moment. The question of press freedom, the question of the public's right to know is a much, much broader question than simply national security issues. So, unfortunately this committee is only going to be able to look at a part of the problem, it's the part where press freedom and the public's right to know intersect with national security questions. But there are a lot of other questions like the way in which our Freedom of Information system works or doesn't work, the way in which we don't have adequate protection for whistleblowers in the Commonwealth Public Sector or for that matter in the private sector. All of these are questions that come up when you start talking about press freedoms
JAYES: This is not your preferred vehicle then that is clear. How will you then treat the recommendations and is Labor calling for, or do you have the power to put forward, any other committees, make changes yourself?
DREYFUS: Well there's another Senate committee that is going to be looking at these same issues but at a broader level and that's a good thing. Right now I'm focusing on what this intelligence committee hearing is going to do today. It’s going to start by hearing from the CEOs of Australia's largest media organisations. They've come together to call on the Government to make some pretty substantial changes to a range of laws that affect journalists, that affect the public's right to know and I’d say again Laura it's disappointing to see that as yet, despite Mr Morrison having called this inquiry, there doesn't seem to be any acceptance by the Government that laws need to change
JAYES: On Friday the Home Affairs Minister did appear to deliver an edict to the AFP that essentially said that the AFP must consider press freedom before it conducts any raids. Is that adequate?
DREYFUS: You’re left wondering why wasn't that the position before that the Australian Federal Police had to consider press freedom, the public's right to know before conducting a raid. Why is it necessary, why should it be necessary for the minister to assume a direction? It's not a very strong direction it's a direction that still leaves plenty of discretion to the Australian Federal Police. That's one of the matters we will be looking at in the inquiry, not today in Sydney, but tomorrow in Canberra when the agencies appear before the committee.
Why did the Government leave it 67 days after the raids - having said that it cared about press freedom - to make this directive, and why is it expressed in the way that it is? We don't think that this is enough. We think that there needs to be some changes to Australian law to make sure that journalists are not prosecuted for simply doing their jobs.
JAYES: Ok so would you… What is your preferred position here then, that you change the law so that journalists, working journalists can't be raided at all? And how do you define journalists? Because bloggers, people who are published on websites that aren't mass media, how do you define a journalist?
DREYFUS: There's a whole array of people now engaged in what was once traditional media work that was confined to say newspapers and radios and TV. With digital communication we’ve got many other people who are publishing, many other people who are writing articles and that's an issue that arises not just in this question of who do you protect as a journalist, it arises in the context of who do you protect when you protect whistleblowers who provide information to other people who publish? It's not a new question Laura, it's something that's been grappled with in some Australian statutes and it's one of the questions that the committee is going to need to look at during the course of this inquiry - that is that question, who is the journalist?
JAYES: How concerned are you about the access to journalist’s metadata?
DREYFUS: Very concerned. We've already got to the situation where there's actually more protection for a journalist’s mobile phone data than there is protection against a raid being conducted on a journalist’s home. That disparity is another question that needs to be looked at in this inquiry so there's some protection. But one of the questions set out in the terms of reference is whether or not there needs to be a better warrant system, whether those warrants should be contested, whether there should be some right on the part of media organisations or journalists to have a say, and contest the issue of warrants before there's a search of journalists’ homes or before there's a search of media organisations’ offices or before indeed has access to the mobile phone data of a journalist.
JAYES: But Labor passed these laws, they're only a couple of years old when it comes to metadata, how did you get it wrong and is that a failing of this very committee that is looking at press freedom today?
DREYFUS: I think one of the things about national security laws is that they don't need to be seen and should not be seen as permanent. That's why we have sunset provisions, that's why we have review provisions, and the intelligence committee is in fact conducting a separate review of the mandatory data retention laws and the Government's been….
JAYES: So the metadata laws need to change is that your view?
DREYFUS: I'm not going to pre-empt that ultimate finding that the intelligence committee might make but it's pretty clear.
JAYES: But you're pointing out some pretty serious flaws.
DREYFUS: And I'm not alone there Laura. There have been dozens of submissions made to the intelligence committee by media organisations, by members of the public, by academics, all of them pointing to the need for laws to change. I think you'd have to ask Mr Dutton, who is the minister responsible for this at the moment, whether he is serious about letting his agencies come forward to the committee and say there is no need for change. Labor flagged these concerns at every point over the last six years.
JAYES: Yes but you still voted for these laws in the Parliament did you not?
DREYFUS: Having been successful in obtaining a range of safeguards, a range of checks and balances, and again I think if you were to ask Mr Dutton he's full of abuse for Labor, full of abuse for me in particular, claiming that - I think he was saying last week, ranting - saying that I had watered down national security laws. So when we're talking about who's responsible for the current state of the laws I’d ask everyone to look at the role that Labor has played in trying, as far as possible, to both respond to the requests of our agencies for new powers, albeit temporary ones and making sure that there are safeguards and checks and balances in those laws. Again I’d say we have to keep these sorts of laws under review. They are responses to emergency situations, they are responses to current threats like the threat that was posed by Islamist terrorism. That threat, according to the Director-General of Security Duncan Lewis, is now receding and that's a good time to be having another look at these laws to check to see whether they are in fact still needed and still in the right form
JAYES: So you think that the threat of Islamist terrorism has receded and therefore we should review the laws?
DREYFUS: That's not me saying that, Laura. That's the Director-General of Security who has said that the threat of Islamist terrorism has plateaued, I think was his word. If that's the case then, when that was the threat that was identified in 2014 and 15 and 16 as the reason for these powers to come into existence, of course we should be reviewing those powers to check whether they are still in fact needed, and we should be checking to see whether they are fit still fit for purpose, and given the shocking events of these raids that occurred back in June, we should be checking whether there is still sufficient protection for the public's right to know and for journalists doing their job.
JAYES: Mr Dreyfus I appreciate your time this morning.
DREYFUS: Thanks very much Laura.