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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7252


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (20:41): The government does not support these amendments because we think they are entirely unnecessary. The two additional exceptions to the SIO disclosure offences are for information already disclosed by the minister, by the director-general, or by a deputy director-general, or for information disclosed reasonably in good faith and in the public interest. In relation to the first of those, there is no need at all for a specific exemption for information that has already been lawfully disclosed, because, Senator Leyonhjelm, if the information is already in the public domain because it has been disclosed by the minister or the director-general or a deputy director-general, there can, ex hypothesi, be no disclosure, and therefore there is no conduct on which the offence provision could operate. So there is no factual circumstance to which your amendment could possibly apply.

In relation to the other exemption you propose—good faith and in the public interest—a specific public interest exemption is not necessary because appropriate protection is already afforded to persons who make disclosures of suspected wrongdoing to the relevant authorities. As I have already pointed out earlier in the debate, nothing in this bill intrudes upon the capacity of someone to take advantage of the whistleblower protection provisions, and nothing in this bill constrains the capacity of a person to approach the IGIS. In fact, as a result of the recommendations of the PJCIS dealt with earlier in the government's amendments there are strengthened safeguard provisions for a person approaching the IGIS. So if a person, in good faith and in the public interest, wants to ensure that what they perceive to be or believe to be wrongdoing is brought to the attention of the authorities, they can already do that under the provisions of the existing bill as amended and improved by the government amendments today.