In the past year, the Australian Federal Police has been asked to investigate a piece in The Australian about the Government’s’ leaked Draft Defence White Paper, and a Fairfax Media story on a proposal to reform to citizenship laws.
Just last week, police raided Parliament House in an attempt to track down the source of an embarrassing leak about the National Broadband Network. It’s feared that these investigations, along with increased penalties for whistleblowers, are hindering the ability of journalists to hold policymakers to account.
It was with this in mind that the Opposition eventually voted for the amendments that created the Journalist Information Warrant scheme, and allowed the Data Retention laws to pass last year. In a last minute effort to shore up support for the legislation, the Government agreed to add provisions for ‘safeguards’ that would, in theory, prevent the scheme being used to target journalists’ sources. However, a closer look at the scheme reveals its flaws.
When a democracy creates warranting schemes solely to determine who is willing to speak with journalists, the democracy is demonstrably in danger of slipping free of the grasp of the citizenry.