Senate debates

Thursday, 26 March 2015


Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015; In Committee

5:39 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

Not only am I prepared not to acknowledge what the Attorney has said, but I repudiate what he says because the amendment is clear—it must be in the public interest. There is a whole framework there in respect of the public interest. Let me give one example. On 4 August 2009 there was a front-page story by The Australian's Cameron Stewart, one of the most respected journalists in this country. It was headed 'Army base terror plot foiled', and it related to a plot by Islamic extremists in Melbourne to launch a suicide attack on an Australian Army base being uncovered by national security agencies. TheAustralian's story caused a massive fuss at the time. So I am not accused of plagiarism, I am reading from a piece from a MediaWatch story on this on 6 October 2014. I am going to confine my remarks to Mr Stewart's story. There was a huge fuss at the time, with the AFP and the Victorian police accusing Cameron Stewart of putting their operation at risk by reporting the police raids on the day they were going to take place. Cameron Stewart, in response to MediaWatch questions on 3 October 2014, was asked whether he believed his scoop would have been blocked by the new law. It was unclear, because ASIO was also part of Operation Neath, said Mr Stewart—he said he suspected it could have been declared a special intelligence operation under those new provisions, and he did not see how it could have been possible to publish his stories without breaking the law and being liable for jail. Does the Attorney consider that Mr Stewart should be charged under section 35P for that front-page story in The Australian newspaper on 4 August 2009?


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