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Friday, May 15, 2009

Shield law over the easy hurdle- now for the high jump

The Evidence Amendment (Journalists' Privilege) Bill was the subject of very good debate as it went through the House of Representatives in Canberra yesterday, without amendment. Speeches from both sides of the House were on subject and well-informed. Those who think shield laws and whistleblower protection are essentially the same thing should read the contribution of Member for Isaacs, Mark Dreyfus. Attorney General McClelland assured the House that consideration would be given to the Senate Committee recommendation that would require the court to consider both the public interest in the disclosure of a protected confidence and the disclosure of protected identity information. Beyond that the Government is sticking to its guns:
"We have specifically referred to a balance, and we have graded all considerations equally for them to be considered in the exercise of a court’s discretion. Labor have been absolutely consistent in where we stand on this issue, both when in opposition and in government . Our position is reflected in this bill. The government have made it clear that we support the courts having a guided discretion to make a decision. In contrast, the opposition as usual is playing opportunistic politics in a bid to get some cheap praise, one would think, from media outlets. In conclusion, this bill forms an integral part of the Rudd government’s commitment to enhance transparency and accountability of government and the Public Service and to promote free speech. In conjunction with other proposed reforms in areas such as freedom of information law and whistleblower protections, this bill will bring about a more vibrant system of democracy in Australia."
Action now moves to the Senate.

Thanks to Open Australia for the heads up, and the link

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