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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shield law for quick Senate committee inquiry

The Senate yesterday referred the shield law bills to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for inquiry and report by 23 November. The hope is still to get this through before the parliament rises. Senator Brandis hopes it will facilitate passage of both bills in a harmonised form. On the definition issue, The Greens Senator Ludlam said "journalists who work on a voluntary basis—the citizen journalists, the bloggers, the independent media collectives and so on—also need the protections afforded by this bill." The privilege "should not rest on whether or not your work is paid... The test that we are looking for is whether or not it is in the public interest for the source to be protected.... My reading of the bill is that it would extend the protection in this way, but we are seeking to lay that ambiguity to rest." Senator Xenophon said "the reference in the definition to that person’s work does not seek to define a journalist as someone who is paid; rather it is to distinguish those who are making one passing comment, from someone who is engaged and active in the publication of news. I think there is a clear distinction between the two. (The Wilkie bill Explanatory Memorandum was the source of the problem as pointed out here.)

Apart from this, other issues raised in that bills digest weren't mentioned- but the Committee has a couple of days to reflect.

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