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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 4333

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital TerritoryAssistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation) (13:40): Certainly, Senator. I think it's very, very clear that the issue you've raised of, for instance, NGOs and others engaging with international counterparts—and I'll give a couple of examples; in fact, I'll even quote the shadow Attorney-General, who said during the second reading debate:

… the interpretation offered by some civil society groups that the espionage offences are capable of criminalising the disclosure of alleged breaches of international law or human rights by Australia or another country is simply not correct.

The espionage offences in sections 91.1 and 91.2 require proof beyond reasonable doubt that a person either intended to prejudice Australia's national security, or was aware of a substantial risk that his or her conduct would prejudice Australia's national security and that, in all the circumstances known to him or her, it was unjustifiable to take that risk.

Now an NGO seeking to draw human rights concerns to the attention of the UN or international counterparts plainly doesn't intend to prejudice Australia's national security. Similarly, even if there was a substantial risk that drawing such concerns to the attention of the UN or another NGO might prejudice Australia's national security beyond causing mere embarrassment to the Australian government—of course, that's difficult to conceive—then an NGO would plainly have a justification for drawing attention to such concerns.