Freedom of the Press?

In today’s SMH lawyer Lou Dargan said  this –
<blockquote>Changes to espionage laws passed in 2018 – and backed by both major parties – criminalise dissent. These laws could be used to target think tanks and other NGOs whose advocacy is unflattering to the government of the day</blockquote>

Well, who would ever have thought that might happen?

Only a lot of very concerned people who talked, wrote, blogged and tweeted about this when the legislation was being debated. Only a stack of people who petitioned Labor not to support this.

Now it’s law, and there is nothing we can do about it until one day we have a government with the guts to repeal draconian legislation introduced with Labor’s full support, possibly introduced only to placate Peter Dutton.

Labor eagerly supported this, Labor always supports bills that impose newer, stricter restrictions on freedom and they always do it in the name of “Keeping Australians Safe”.

Safe from what?

Media articles never mention the names of the acts and bills they refer to. I suppose that’s because journalists cannot be bothered spending a few seconds looking up these details. After all, who cares about legislation? It’s so boring!

The passage of this bill – National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2018 (and it’s companion the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2018) is interesting. The bill was introduced to the Reps in December 2017 where it languished until June 2018 while the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (made up of only government and Labor members) looked at it and recommended more than 60 changes, which were made. It was then pushed through both houses in three days at the end of the 2018 winter sitting with Labor’s complete support.

We can now look back and realise Dutton needed to be placated back then, needed to be made more important, needed to be given even more powers than he already had. We now know why.

Only the Greens, CA and a couple of the Senate crossbenchers tried to have these two bills debated separately. That made sense. As Rex Patrick said –
<blockquote>Centre Alliance will be supporting this motion to deal with the bills separately. We note that it’s very important national security legislation and, in principle, we are in support of it—although we don’t necessarily understand all of the details. And that needs to be drawn out, as Senator McKim has suggested. This has gone to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. There has been considerable discussion both in the PJCIS and in the media in relation to these bills. It’s a very complex set of legislation that involves powers to protect national security, but it also inhibits conduct of citizens. That may be necessary, but we need to explore that in much more detail. There have been two reports that the PJCIS has generated in relation to these—754 pages worth of reports—with 60 recommendations from the first report and 52 recommendations from the second report. We do need to consider this carefully and properly. As I said, Centre Alliance will be supporting the motion</blockquote>
Labor voted with the government against that motion and two very complex bills were treated as one.

Attempts to amend the bill by the Greens and CA on 28 June 2018 failed because Labor refused to support them. Labor politicians had already made whatever changes they thought necessary during the confidential committee stage and were noit going to allow any other changes.

The full Hansard of that day’s debate is here –

Thanks to Labor’s willing support of this legislation we have seen AFP raids on ABC offices and the home of a NewsCorp journalist, during which police officers rummaged through her underwear. (Female officers, of course, because it was assumed that females would not become excited by the sight of bras and knickers.)

Another time bomb waiting to explode is the so-called “encryption bill”, the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, rammed through both houses on the last sitting day of 2018, with Labor agreeing to waive their amendments on condition this legislation was reviewed by a committee when parliament resumed this year.

That review ended when parliament was dissolved for the election. Whether or not it is ever resumed is a question for FauxMo and Dutton. If the AFP raids had not happened then chances are that abandoned review would never have been restarted. Now, with media bosses about to speak at the NPC and everyone hopping mad about raids it’s possible the government might re-open that inquiry and try to blame the whole mess on Labor. After all, it’s always Labor’s fault when this mob stuff up.




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