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Espionage legislation reintroduced.



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ESPIONAGE LEGISLATION REINTRODUCED

The Federal National Party Member for Maranoa, the Hon Bruce Scott said today that the reintroduction into Parliament of the Criminal Code Amendment (Espionage and Related Offences) Bill will see the maximum penalty for espionage raised from seven years to 25 years imprisonment.

“This is intended to deter people who would betray Australia’s security interests,” Mr Scott said.

This legislation is a response to the 1991 Gibbs report and the 2000 report of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and was promised as part of the 2001 Election campaign.

It was introduced just prior to the calling of the 2001 Election and I am pleased to see its reintroduction.

“As a result of this Bill, Australia will have in place stronger espionage laws with higher penalties to deter those who would commit the ultimate betrayal of their country,” Mr Scott said.

“It means Australia will be better placed to protect its own information, as well as that generated by other countries.

“This will allow us to further assure our information exchange partners that the Howard Government is committed to protecting sensitive information and considers it a high priority for action.” The Government also made the decision to excise provisions in the Criminal Code Amendment (Espionage and Related Offences) Bill 2002 that relate to the unauthorised disclosure of information before it is reintroduced into the Parliament.

This decision has been taken because the Bill is too important to delay.

Media outlets and industry representatives are concerned that the proposal in the Bill to restate the existing official secrets provisions in the Crimes Act in language that is consistent with the Criminal Code will prevent the reporting of public interest stories.

The Government does not agree with this view. It is clear from meetings between government officials with media and industry representatives that there needs to be ongoing consultation about these elements of the proposed provisions in the Bill. We will continue to do so.

14 March 2002

MEDIA RELEASE MEDIA RELEASE MEDIA RELEASE MEDIA RELEASE The Hon Bruce Scott MP FEDERAL MEMBER FOR MARANOA