Thursday, 26 March 2015
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015; In Committee
I thank the government and the opposition for their response, but let us put this into perspective. If a journalist discloses after the fact, when, as set out in this amendment, it is clearly in the public interest, that there has been a journalist information warrant sought or obtained—when there is no longer any issue about it being detrimental to the work of the security agency or the authorities but is in fact actually in the public interest—that would still be a criminal offence. How, from a public policy point of view, can that be desirable? There is a threshold in this amendment that says it must be in the public interest for a journalist to disclose that there was a warrant issued.
It might be five years down the track or 10 years down the track. Does that mean forever and a day that this will be secret? Does this mean that in 10 years' time, 20 years' time, 30 years' time or 40 years' time, if this bill is in its current form, that journalists will not be able to ever report that a warrant was sought for their metadata even when the exigency or the need for the warrant is no longer apparent and it is also positively in the public interest to disclose that? That is what disturbs me: that fact that we could end up seeing journalists being jailed for disclosing something that would be clearly in the public interest.