Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

No quick fix
The review of media and whistleblower protections should not be rushed

Photograph by Jenny Rollo

Rolling back the tide of draconian national security laws that restrict press freedom and curtail protections for whistleblowers and others is a task to be approached with determination and patience, and not in a hurry, because it’s going to take months if not years. So it is difficult to understand why News Corp’s Campbell Reid today declined to support a much-needed review, which was backed by shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally in an op-ed [$] in The Australian this morning. Some say there are 75 pieces of post–September 11 legislation that have brought us to where we are now – with police raiding journalists and the government secretly prosecuting whistleblowers – and some say there are hundreds. It is clearly not a case of needing to act now to prevent a recurrence of exactly and only what happened last week. It is a case of needing to slowly but surely review and carefully amend every surveillance-state law on the books, whether passed in the Abbott–Turnbull–Morrison era or before.

Keneally supports a review to amend national security laws to protect the media and whistleblowers, and reforming the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to provide increased oversight of intelligence and security agencies. She proposed that the review could be conducted by the PJCIS itself – problematic, because the committee currently has no crossbench representation – or by an entirely new parliamentary joint committee – better – to “recommend legislative and other steps to ensure we are getting the balance between national security legislation and freedom of the press”.

News Corp’s Reid, however, told ABC Radio: “We think that an inquiry serves the purpose of uncovering something that’s wrong, and our view in this case is that, for the better part of a decade, we and media companies, legal experts, legal academics and people interested in the public’s right to know have been repeatedly raising concerns about new pieces of legislation that have been passed that enshrine a creeping constraint and criminalisation of normal journalism.”

News Corp hardly has clean hands here, as it has consistently sided with the government to attack Labor for being soft on national security – most notably in a ridiculous beat-up over the medivac laws. As Bernard Keane writes, News Corp is today quite laughably blaming Labor for going along with the government. The Morrison government’s encryption-cracking access and assistance laws, the Turnbull government’s foreign espionage and interference laws and creation of the home affairs portfolio, and the Abbott government’s data retention laws, all make the Coalition far more guilty than Labor. The ALP did propose tougher media regulation and internet filtering, but it wasn't motivated by national security paranoia, and in both cases it was unsuccessful.

It’s not a time for finger-pointing, however. A thorough review is the best place to start, and the mixed signals out of the government so far, following the closed meeting with the ABC yesterday, are not good enough. But that review would just be the beginning: the broader problem, as University of New South Wales law dean George Williams told The Sydney Morning Herald last week, is that Australia is the only democracy in the world that does not protect free speech and freedom of the press through a charter or bill of rights. It’s time to fix that.

“I … have consulted with union leaders who are concerned by Mr Setka’s words and actions, which are not compatible with our values, and have impacted on our movement. The ACTU condemns all acts of family and domestic violence. Australian unions have made ending family and domestic violence a priority.”

Sally McManus in a statement this afternoon, ahead of a meeting tomorrow with CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka.

“[Adani is] actually the ice-breaker that will lay down those baselines and will provide the infrastructure … The proponents coming behind it, quite frankly, will have a much easier run than Adani. The first proponent always has the most difficult run.”

Queensland Resources Council chief and former MP Ian Macfarlane explains how Adani’s Carmichael mine, if approved, will set a precedent for six other mines planned in the Galilee Basin.

The amount donated to the Liberal Party in the 2013 and 2016 elections by climate sceptic and expat billionaire Michael Hintze, who has connections with Energy Minister Angus Taylor and his brother, Richard.

“At the start of this decade, the typical worker lacked 1.2 of the critical skills needed by employers seeking to fill a given position. Today, the average worker is missing around 2 of the 18 critical skills that are advertised for a job. And the gap is still growing, with far-and-away the bulk of those ‘missing skills’ those of the heart.”

From a Deloitte report, “The path to prosperity: Why the future of work is human”, which argues that non-routine skills of the head and heart are the future of work.

The list

“Reams were written about Israel Folau’s free speech, while only a handful of stories about the Christchurch shooting aftermath and the rise of the far right in Australia made their way into print. In an ideal world it might be possible to have rigorous, intellectual debates about the importance of free speech in a diverse, public domain while also recognising the need to protect citizens from harm. But this isn’t an ideal world; this is Australia. And so we have neither.”

“The Coalition won the recent federal election at least in part on its reputation as the better economic manager. It claimed it could be trusted to take care of taxpayer dollars. But does this stand up to scrutiny? Frankly, not when it comes to the way the government funds our schools.”

“[Michael] Pezzullo is a complex mix of ambition, charm, belligerence and brilliance, both admired and loathed ... On taking the job, in late 2014, Pezzullo took a cleaver to the structures, culture and identity of the old immigration department. He put protégées from Defence into top jobs. He introduced new dress codes and drug and alcohol tests, and told officials the department had to get much tougher; the ‘care bears’, as he later called them, would have to go.”

Breaking up big tech
Once a radical thought, the idea of breaking up tech giants to help regulate them is gaining traction with politicians and tech entrepreneurs. Osman Faruqi on the battle between free speech and hate speech at places like Facebook.

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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