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Monday, 21 October 2019
Page: 4820

Dr LEIGH (Fenner) (10:35): This is what the front page of today's Canberra Times looks like. This is what the front page of today's Sydney Morning Herald looks like. This is what the front page of today's Australian looks like. It is a common feature—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Zimmerman ): Order! I remind the member for Fenner that the House rules in relation to the use of props apply in the Federation Chamber.

Dr LEIGH: This is a common feature of major papers right across Australia. This is what it looks like when our journalists say, 'Enough!' to a government fighting media freedom and the public's right to know. As a Labor politician and an avid newspaper reader, I believe a strong and independent media is vital to holding governments—and oppositions, for that matter—to account. The Right to Know coalition is an historic, united campaign fighting for press freedom. We know that police raids on media offices and the homes of journalists right here in Canberra should not be the norm. We know the country deserves better than a Prime Minister who is loose with the truth and who repeatedly avoids answering even the simplest questions that attempt to hold him to account in his office.

To the Prime Minister I say: accountability isn't a 'bubble' issue. Nine out of 10 Australians tell survey researchers they value transparency. Only four out of 10 say it's happening right now. And, sadly, this is not a new issue for this third-term government. Under this Prime Minister, we've seen the government refuse to answer questions from journalists and from members of the public. Extraordinarily, when asked questions about the raids in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the communications minister interrupted a third question to state, 'To be honest with you, I've said about as much as I'm going to say on this topic, and, if that's the only thing you're interested in talking about, then probably I'll draw the interview to an end.' They won't even talk about their attempts to silence the truth. We've seen the government ignore its legal obligations to provide information under freedom-of-information laws. We've seen them use criminal law to intimidate people who embarrass them. It's not acceptable in Australia. It's not acceptable in any democracy.

My Labor colleagues and I stand shoulder to shoulder with the Right to Know coalition. We want the government to rule out prosecution of Dan Oakes, Sam Clark and Annika Smethurst. We want better protection for journalists whose only so-called crime is doing their jobs. We want whistleblowers protected and we want the government to answer questions put to it. This isn't a campaign for the self-interest of journalists; it's a campaign for democracy and for the right of every Australian to know the truth. To quote the Right To Know campaign, 'When government keeps the truth from you, what are they covering up?'