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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7245


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (20:08): I rise tonight to support my colleague Senator Ludlam in asking Senator Brandis to answer the questions. This is the committee stage of this important legislation. This is seriously challenging the right of journalists to be able to report in the public interest. It is extraordinary that he is refusing to answer very straightforward questions. Of course, we know that the Labor opposition is going to go along with this regardless; they are not even interested in the answers. But the Fourth Estate in Australia are interested and we want to know exactly what the penalties are going to be. Journalists around the world are being jailed for simply reporting the news. We know that in the case of Peter Greste, for example, our own journalist in Egypt, and we have condemned the Egyptian government and the legal system there for the farce that was the trial that sees him continue to languish in prison in Egypt for simply doing his job.

We are putting to Senator Brandis here tonight questions that go to the heart of the issues of reporting what is going on. I cannot believe that here on a Thursday night this chamber is virtually empty and yet we have seen already tonight penalties increase from one to 10 years for various things. Incredibly draconian legislation is being passed, and the minister responsible either cannot or will not answer and is smug because the opposition is going along with it. I ask Senator Brandis to answer the questions being put to him in the committee stage of a bill as is expected of a competent minister, or is he incompetent and unable to answer the questions being put?