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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Differences over shield laws- that's just in the Committee

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee reported yesterday (Budget day-how to get noticed) with the four Labor senators supporting the Government's proposal on a shield law for journalists but with the addition of words that would make it mandatory for a judge to take into consideration the public interest in disclosure of a protected confidence and/or protected identity information. The other five senators want other changes.The three Liberal Senators on the Committee want to see the law cover professional confidential relationships generally, and a rebuttable presumption in the law in favour of journalist-source confidentiality; the Greens Senator supports the rebuttable presumption and in addition wants the protection to extend beyond those working in the traditional media; and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says he wants broader protections "similar to the UK and New Zealand laws."

How the Bill will fare in the Senate remains uncertain.No-one on the Committee supported the Government bill without changes. The Government needs the Opposition's votes or those of The Greens and independent senators to get legislation through. Getting that far will still leave the problem of national uniformity.

See Chris Merritt in The Australian today and an earlier comment on the issue here.

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