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Police raids must lead to leak laws being changed

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For more information contact Karina Natt on 0433 620 850 or Nick Xenophon on 0411 626 677

Authorised by N. Xenophon, 653 Lower North East Road, Paradise, South Australia 5075

20 / 5 / 2016

POLICE RAIDS MUST LEAD TO LEAK LAWS BEING CHANGED • The current government secrecy laws are an impediment to free speech and good government

• Plan to reform sections 70 and 79 of the Crimes Act to protect disclosures that are in the public interest • AFP criticised for its ‘weird’ raid timing and for its priorities

Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, says the raids on Senator Conroy’s office and one of his staffer’s homes overnight, highlight “the abject failure of whistleblower protection laws in this country, and the draconian nature of sections 70 and 79 of the Crimes Act”.

Section 70 of the Crimes Act makes it an offence punishable by imprisonment if a public servant discloses internal government information and section 79 prosecutes those that receive that information. Jail terms of up to two years can apply.

“Instead of the argy bargy as to whether these raids were politically motivated or not, the real issue is whether our current government secrecy laws need to be changed and whistleblower laws strengthened,” Nick said.

“If a leaked government document reveals information that is in the public interest, for example exposing that taxpayer dollars are being wasted or politicians telling porkies to the public, then that should be an absolute defence so good people don’t end up in jail.”

Senator Xenophon has flagged that if re-elected, a key part of any negotiations with the next government would include their support for legislation he will introduce for: • Reforming sections 70 and 79 to include a public interest defence; • Scrapping the draconian section 35P of the ASIO Act that can jail journalists for reporting

on a botched security operation; • Reforming meta-data laws to protect journalists and news organisations from having their metadata searched which can identify confidential sources and whistleblowers; • Adopting US-style whistleblower laws that protect and compensate whistleblowers for

coming forward with matters of public interest.

“It seems that the laws that led to these raids are less about protecting the national interest and more about covering the backside of politicians who could be politically embarrassed by the leaking of such information,” Nick said.

Senator Xenophon was critical of both major parties, as under Labor and Coalition governments, raids under section 70 and 79 took place. He also criticised the AFP for its priorities and timing.

“Unlike the Opposition, I’m not suggesting this was a politically motivated raid, but rather the AFP is enforcing draconian laws. But you have to query the weird timing of this raid in the middle of an election campaign given the leak investigation began months ago. And when it comes to priorities, most Australians would think the AFP should be concentrating on terror threats and drug trafficking,” Nick said.