A parliamentary advisory report into the Government’s proposed data retention bill has called for a separate review into questions around whether the bill should allow government agencies to identify journalists confidential sources.
The recommendation follows the today’s news that the bill is expected to pass through both houses of parliament after the Labor party said it would not oppose the Government on the issue.
The advisory report on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 recommended that the committee investigate the issue of confidential sources separately and proposed a three month time frame to report back to parliament.
“The Committee acknowledges the importance of recognising the principle of press freedom and the protection of journalists’ sources,” the report noted.
“The Committee considers this matter requires further consideration before a final recommendation can be made.”
MEAA CEO Paul Murphy said it was shocking the report had made no recommendation when the bill was set to become legislation.
“It’s puzzling to us that on the one hand the committee can acknowledge the seriousness of the concerns that we’ve raised, and virtually all of the media organisations have raised, and then proceed to recommend the passage of the bill without any provision to address those concerns,” he told Mumbrella.
“It fundamentally remains our view that this bill should not be passed at all”.
The report said the further investigation would involve media organisations, law enforcement and security agencies and would also look at international examples and best practice.
Media organisations and legal and civil rights groups strongly opposed any powers that would allow agencies to identify journalist’s sources.
In their submissions these groups argued that if sources were to be revealed people would be less likely to come forward and disclose information of public interest to journalists, and in turn weaken the democratic and public service role of the media in society.