Monday, 25 October 2010
Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Bill 2010
The Australian Greens believe that a strong and independent press is an essential safeguard for a democratic society. Legislation that facilitates better access to information for the Australian public through the media should be commended, which is why I support the Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Bill 2010.
At this point in time, Australia stands alone among democratic nations in not providing shield laws. The United Kingdom, New Zealand and even the United States have as their starting point the protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. The Senate inquiry report into the government’s lapsed Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Bill 2009 acknowledged that most submissions favoured a rebuttable presumption of journalists’ privilege, such as exists in other similar democratic countries. All of the media organisations who made submissions or gave evidence supported many of the amendments in that bill, but clearly stated that the bill had not fulfilled the government’s stated intentions in the crucial matter of protection of confidentiality. We have an opportunity now to ensure that those original stated intentions are fulfilled.
As I listened to the various speakers today, it struck me that this bill is a good example of how all parties can collaborate on a worthwhile initiative in a way that would not have happened without the currently composed parliament. To facilitate its passage, the Greens will support the bill in its current form in the House, but I indicate now that we will seek minor amendments to it in the Senate. In particular, we believe that it should be made explicit that the bill covers bloggers, citizen journalists and documentary filmmakers, and that the privileges provided by the bill cover anyone engaged in the process of journalism, no matter who they are or in what medium they publish. I thank the member for Denison for introducing this important bill and, subject to our intention to seek some amendments, indicate the Greens’ support.