MARK DREYFUS MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
MICHELLE ROWLAND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR GREENWAY
DAN OAKES DECISION LONG OVERDUE
Labor strongly welcomes the decision by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions that there is no public interest in prosecuting ABC journalist Dan Oakes.
However, this decision has taken far too long.
It should not have taken three years to decide journalism is not a crime, and Mr Oakes and Sam Clark should never have been the target of a criminal investigation. The raid on the ABC Headquarters in June last year, and the separate raid on the home of Annika Smethurst, put a spotlight on the Morrison Government’s contempt for press freedom, its contempt for the public’s right to know and its contempt for scrutiny and any notion of accountability for those in power.
The raid on Ms Smethurst’s home came with the personal blessing of the Prime Minister who shrugged off the extraordinary assault on press freedom by saying ‘It never troubles me that our laws are being upheld.’ The High Court has since unanimously made clear that our laws were not being upheld – the warrant authorising the raid was unlawful.
The Attorney-General should have acted long before now to bring this entire sorry saga to an end by announcing he would not consent to any prosecution of the ABC’s Sam Clarke and Dan Oakes.
Freedom of the press is central to a functioning democracy. A robust, free press makes our democracy stronger and our nation more secure.
Since the extraordinary raids on Annika Smethurst’s home and the ABC’s Sydney Headquarters in June 2019, the Morrison Government has consistently maintained that the law does not need to change.
However, the final report in August this year from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security inquiry into freedom of the press unanimously concluded that existing Australian law does not adequately protect freedom of the press.
Unlike the Morrison Government, Labor believes in freedom of the press and the public’s right to know.
Labor believes journalists should never face the prospect of being charged, or even jailed, just for doing their jobs.
Law enforcement agencies should never be raiding journalists just because they are embarrassing the Government.
The Morrison Government can no longer hide behind these legal proceedings, and must now commit to implementing the bipartisan recommendations in the PJCIS report that would improve press freedom and provide better legal protections for journalists.
A strong and independent media is vital to holding governments to account and to informing the Australian public. Labor will continue to fight to defend and to strengthen press freedom and the public’s right to know.
THURSDAY, 15 OCTOBER 2020