Front pages of major Australian newspapers show a 'Your right to know
Front pages of major Australian newspapers show a 'Your right to know" campaign, Canberra, Monday, October 21, 2019. The front pages of the major newspapers on Monday replicated a heavily redacted government document, alongside an advertising campaign challenging laws that effectively criminalise journalism and whistleblowing. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

‘Won’t support exemptions’: Maranoa MP responds to calls for press freedom

A FREE press is a pillar of our democracy, but the government won’t support exempting journalists from laws “designed to keep Australians safe”. That’s the message from Maranoa MP David Littleproud.

In an interview this week, the federal minister was asked about his thoughts on the press freedom push made by Australia’s Right to Know Coalition.

“The Government won’t support exemptions for an entire class of professionals from laws designed to keep Australians safe,” he said, as it would allow foreign agents to exploit Australian journalists.

This week, News Corp stood alongside other Australian news organisations in protest to the current impingement to press freedom as set out in national legislation.

The Right to Know Coalition has since put pressure on federal ministers, asking them their thoughts on the Austrailan Federal Police’s raids on Australian journalists, access to journalism metadata, and proposed new powers to spy on ordinary Australian citizens.

In addition, questions to Mr Littleproud asked if he believed the use of national security laws could impinge on press freedom, and if he would support the right for media organisations to contest the application for warrants on journalists and media companies. We also asked if he supported journalists being exempt from national security laws that effectively threaten them for doing their job.

In response, Mr Littleproud said he supported the processes currently in place.

“A free press is a pillar of our democracy, we are committed to it, and that’s why many of the issues raised by media outlets have been referred to the bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security,” he said.

“THE PJCIS inquiry was commissioned because it’s the best way for all parties to have an open say, and for issues to be considered on a bipartisan basis.”

Mr Littleproud said if the PJCIS finds evidence that there can be law improvements to strike a more transparent system, then the time would come to find a right fit for the country, but not until the Committee’s report comes through at the end of November.

“The Government is working through 33 recommendations regarding the Public interest Disclosure scheme to improve it, including appropriate safeguards for Australian journalists,” he said.

“As our national security agencies have repeatedly said, exempting an entire class of professionals from laws designed to keep Australians safe would allow foreign agents to exploit journalists in Australia.”