MPs fail in bid to protect journalists’ sources

MPs fail in bid to protect journalists’ sourcesAttorney-General George Brandis, whose new laws are the cause of concern among publishers. PHOTO: CeBIT Australia

Attempts to add provisions to strengthen protection of journalists’ sources were defeated as data retention laws backed by the Australian Government and the Opposition passed the Senate on Thursday.

Sitting had been extended for the last two nights in an effort by the government to decide the fate of the legislation as soon as possible.

Senator Nick Xenophon had attempted to have the laws amended so journalists would be alerted when an application was made to access their metadata.

Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm also wanted changes made to the legislation to better ensure privacy, while the Greens were hoping to see the legislation dumped altogether.

All the independent and minor party senators voted against the bill, but it passed with the support of Labor and the Coalition.

There is no indication as yet of the cost of the legislation.

At a press conference last Thursday, Mr Xenophon told reporters the deal between the ALP and the Liberal Party to establish a warrant system for acquiring the telecommunications metadata of journalists was a step backwards.

Under the revised proposal, the warrant process will be overseen by a government-appointed Public Interest Advocate.

“There will be no real protection for journalists. Having these so called public interest advocates will not allow media organisations to come before the authorities issuing these warrants,” Mr Xenophon said.

“Investigative journalism and a free press in this country will be weaker for it. The public’s right to know will be compromised.”

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