Member for Flynn, Ken O’Dowd.
Member for Flynn, Ken O’Dowd.

CQ politicians weigh in on press freedoms

AMID an unprecedented campaign for press freedom Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd has defended the government's rules and legislation currently in place.

A combined media campaign launched in October, Right to Know, is demanding transparency in information access on matters of public importance.

Mr O'Dowd said freedom of the press and keeping Australians safe were two "fundamental tenets of our democracy".

"The Government is committed to ensuring that our democracy strikes the right balance between them," he said.

He said press freedom was not absolute.

"All Australians are subject to the law of the land," he said.

"The freedom to publish has always been subject to other considerations such as laws concerning defamation, a defendant's right to a fair trial and national security."

Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher said the raids on journalists' homes earlier this year were proof the system needed changing.

Mr Butcher also pointed to recent raids on the homes of union members.

Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher.
Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher.

He said the media needed to be capable of holding people to account.

"To have people's houses raided is going to a step too far, but at the same time we also need to make sure reporting is done open, fair and honest," he said.

"We see campaigns that are done now without the facts, so while we need to make sure the press gets a fair opportunity, the facts of the story need to be told."

Mr O'Dowd said the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security would hand down a report on the matter on November 28.

The six Australia's Right to Know reforms being sought are:

  • the right to contest any kind of search warrant on journalists or news organisations before the warrant is issued;
  • law change to ensure public whistleblowers are adequately protected;
  • a new regime that limits which documents can be marked secret;
  • review of Freedom of Information laws
  • that journalists be exempt from national security laws enacted over the past seven years that currently can put them in jail for doing their job; and
  • defamation law reform.