Opinion: AFP raids on journalists

The Hon Pat Conaghan, Member for Cowper

Re: Raids on Journalists

Dear Mr Conaghan,

I am writing to voice my condemnation of the recent raids by the Australian Federal Police on the ABC, News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, and 2GB radio presenter Ben Fordham which have serious implications to the broader issues of access to information on individuals and free speech.

While the PM has dismissed the recent assault on the press as a matter for the AFP, which is ostensibly an independent body, the fact remains that it was the Coalition Government who, introduced the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015, amending the previous TIA Act to oblige Telco companies to retain metadata on customers for 2 years and, furthermore, to allow many agencies access to the data without a warrant.

The Government was subsequently pressed to establish the Warrant Scheme, excluding access to journalists' metadata without a warrant which, if sought, must be given only on the grounds of a serious threat to national security, but is this truly the case here? I remain unconvinced.

At what point do we draw the line between national security and serious erosion of individual rights, freedom of press and democracy as a whole? The media coverage relating to the actions of the Military (Afghan papers), the Australian Signals Directorate and the Government's dealings with boat people were not about terrorist threats to Australia. They do not pose any threat to national security. We, the people who you serve, have a right to know about these issues and journalists have a right to protect their sources in order to bring these issues to light.

A free press may be uncomfortable at times but it is a strong pillar of democracy and your Government is doing its best to topple it.

I would say that the AFP (and to me by implication, the Government), by not exercising some discretion in the course of their actions, have themselves conducted acts of terrorism in the name of counter-terrorism law. Argue what you will about national security, but Australia will be shooting itself in the foot and will go to Hell in a handbasket if journalists can no longer protect their sources and bring to light serious issues that should be of concern to the public.

How shameful that, in the name of national security and counter-terrorism, the Government is only protecting itself by intimidating others. As for me, I do not feel better protected from these recent events. On the contrary, I feel angry, and far less secure.

Sandy Radke

Spicketts Creek