Senate debates

Thursday, 28 June 2018


National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2018; In Committee

6:01 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I can only concur with the views expressed by Senator Rhiannon. I want people to understand that this is the only opportunity. The committee stage of this legislation is the only opportunity that this Senate has to scrutinise the 280 amendments across the two separate pieces of legislation that are before us this afternoon that the government and Labor have agreed on. The reason for that is that the coalition and Labor refused to support a Greens attempt to refer these pieces of legislation, plus the 280 amendments, to an inquiry by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Now, it's true that the bills as originally drafted, sloppy and rank with overreach, were examined at a parliamentary committee, the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security, but, of course, that's a closed shop between the coalition and Labor. The crossbench is frozen out of that. Having said that, the PJCIS process did not provide an opportunity for the Senate to interrogate the 280 different amendments across the two pieces of legislation that we're debating this evening.

What we've got, as Senator Rhiannon quite rightly points out, are provisions that will have a chilling effect on our democracy, on freedom of speech, on press freedom and on media freedom in this country. We have a government refusing to allow for proper scrutiny, and being backed to the hilt by the Labor Party in refusing to allow for that proper scrutiny. The chilling effect is important here, because journalists will need to regularly ask themselves whether a story that they intend to write or publish might fall foul of the provisions in this legislation. When they're facing life imprisonment if they get it wrong—or at least the potential for life imprisonment if they get it wrong—it would be entirely understandable if they decided to err on the side of caution. That is exactly what this government is trying to do. I have no doubt that that is the intent of the relevant ministers who have oversight of this legislation. The cabinet, who presumably all supported and certainly will all support this legislation when it's voted on in this place, have the intent to significantly curtail the media's capacity to hold the government to account and report on stories that are embarrassing to the government. Of course, the Labor Party knows that it will be in government again one day and that, when it's in government, it will benefit from this chilling denial of press freedom.

I agree with Senator Rhiannon. Here we are, it's ticking into the evening and almost no-one's in the chamber. The minister's not answering questions on legislation that, in some parts, has the capacity to impose sentences of life imprisonment on people who are found to have contravened the incredibly broad provisions of this legislation. It's massive overreach, and it continues the blind lock step of the coalition and Labor marching this country down the road to authoritarianism. I was at Bernard Collaery's press conference today. He was asked whether he thought Australia was a police state. He didn't hesitate; he said yes. And he's right. We're a surveillance state. We're a police state. And we're being marched down the road towards authoritarianism. More than 200 pieces of legislation that erode fundamental rights, freedoms and liberties in this country have passed through state and territory parliaments in the last 20 years, and that's been done, in zombie lock step, by the Labor Party and coalition parties.

I move Australian Greens amendment (1) on sheet 8480:

(1) Page 3 (after line 11), after clause 3, insert:

4 Sunset provision

This Act is repealed at the start of the day 3 years after the day this Act receives the Royal Assent.

[sunset provision]

The CHAIR: I remind senators that we have split these two bills, so we are dealing with amendment (1) on sheet 8480, which is an amendment to the espionage and foreign interference bill. The question is that the amendment, as moved by Senator McKim, be agreed to.


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