Thursday, 4 July 2019
Joint Select Committee into the Public's Right to Know and Press Freedom; Appointment
(1) That a joint select committee, to be known as the Joint Select Committee into the Public's Right to Know and Press Freedom, be established to inquire into and report on the appropriate balance between the public's right to know, the freedom of the press and Australia's national security, with particular reference to:
(a) disclosure and public reporting of sensitive and classified information, including the appropriate regime for warrants regarding journalists and media organisations and adequacy of existing legislation;
(b) the whistleblower protection regime and protections for public sector employees;
(c) the adequacy of referral practices of the Australian Government in relation to leaks of sensitive and classified information;
(d) appropriate culture, practice and leadership for Government and senior public employees;
(e) mechanisms to ensure that the Australian Federal Police have sufficient independence to effectively and impartially carry out their investigatory and law enforcement responsibilities in relation to politically sensitive matters; and
(f) any related matters.
(2) That the committee should provide an interim report by 19 September 2019 and a final report by 28 November 2019.
(3) That the committee consist of 8 members of the House of Representatives and 8 senators, as follows:
(a) 3 members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Government Whip or Whips;
(b) 4 members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Opposition Whip or Whips;
(c) 1 member of the House of Representatives nominated by the Member for Clark;
(d) 3 senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate;
(e) 3 senators nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate;
(f) 1 senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens; and
(g) 1 senator from Centre Alliance.
(a) participating members may be appointed to the committee on the nomination of the Government Whip in the House of Representatives, the Opposition Whip in the House of Representatives, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or any minority party or independent senator or member of the House of Representatives; and
(b) participating members may participate in hearings of evidence and deliberations of the committee, and have all the rights of members of the committee, but may not vote on any questions before the committee.
(5) That 3 members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee, provided that in a deliberative meeting the quorum shall include one Government member of either House and one non-Government member of either House.
(6) That every nomination of a member of the committee be notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(7) That the members of the committee hold office as a joint select committee until the House of Representatives is dissolved or expires by effluxion of time.
(8) That the committee may proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that not all members have been duly nominated and appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.
(9) That the committee elect as chair one of the members nominated by the Opposition Whip in the House of Representatives or the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and as deputy chair one of the members nominated by Government Whip in the House of Representatives or the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
(10) That the deputy chair shall act chair when the chair is absent from a meeting of the committee or the position of chair is temporarily vacant.
(11) That, in the event of an equality of voting, the chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, have a casting vote.
(12) That the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of 3 or more of its members, and to refer to any such subcommittee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider.
(13) That the committee and any subcommittee have power to send for and examine persons and documents, to move from place to place, to sit in public or in private, notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken and such interim recommendations as it may deem fit.
(14) That the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee with the approval of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(15) That the committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it, and a daily Hansard be published of such proceedings as take place in public.
(16) That the committee have power to adjourn from time to time and to sit during any adjournment of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
(17) That a message be sent to the House of Representatives seeking its concurrence in this resolution.
I seek leave to make a short statement.
In a democracy, balancing the public's right to know and protecting national security is a key responsibility of the government. Over the past six years a culture of secrecy has pervaded this government. The culture of secrecy is now undermining Australians' right to know and freedom of the press. The government have responded to the AFP raids in June with complete silence, and now wish to dictate the terms of a limited and restricted inquiry into their own mismanagement and apathy. If the government refuse to support this motion, they should stand up and explain their silence over the last three weeks and why they have failed in their guardianship of one of our most fundamental democratic rights.
The government will be opposing this motion. The government is committed to ensuring our democracy strikes the right balance between a free press and keeping Australians safe—two fundamental tenets of our democracy. That is why the Prime Minister has already written to the Leader of the Opposition, outlining an inquiry into law enforcement and intelligence powers on the freedom of the press. The government considers it appropriate that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security conduct that inquiry. The PJCIS is well placed to conduct that inquiry, given its responsibility for and experience in handling issues concerning national security information and legislation. We call on all senators to join the government in opposing this motion.
An inquiry into this matter by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is nowhere near good enough. It is a closed shop—owned and run in secret behind closed doors by the major political parties in this place. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is actually part of the reason we have ended up in the mess that we are in, where the AFP is raiding media organisations in this country with a chilling effect on reporting and the core duty of the media to hold power to account. This inquiry has got to be done openly, it's got to be done transparently and it's got to be done in the full view of the Australian people so that they can have confidence that we're getting to the bottom of the significant malaise in this country, where rights are continually being eroded by scaring Australians and trying to make them understand that, in fact, their rights need to be given away and eroded. This inquiry needs to be done openly, and we will not support it being done by the PJCIS.
I can understand wanting accountability on an issue but this notice of motion, it appears to me, is basically a stitch-up. You want accountability? At no time whatsoever has One Nation been approached to be part of the committee. You've actually done a stitch-up here by putting who you want on that committee. I don't believe it's going to be fair and balanced. Therefore I will not be supporting this motion.
The media is such an important element of our democracy. They couple citizens to our government; they inform the citizenry. We had some tremendous or very significant events take place a month ago that most people were quite disturbed about. We understand that national security is important, but national security is a means to an end, and that end is to protect democracy. Without a free press, there is no democracy.