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Harvey/Mcmanus victims of bad laws.

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HARVEY/MCMANUS VICTIMS OF BAD LAWS Reacting to today’s sentencing of Sun Herald journalists Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus for contempt of court for refusing to name the source of their story on the federal government’s proposal to cut veterans’ benefits, Australian Democrats Accountability spokesperson Senator Andrew Murray said this is a further reminder of the need for major reform of federal freedom of information (FOI) and whistle blowing laws.

“The Harvey/McManus sentence comes hard on the heels of the Kessing sentence. It is no good condemning these sentences. Judges have no option but to enforce the law. What is wrong is not the sentence but the crime. Free speech needs protection in Australia, as do disclosures in the public interest,” said Senator Murray.

“Australia’s federal whistleblower and FOI laws just don’t work. Public sector whistleblowers perform an essential public service in combating maladministration, corruption and misconduct in the workplace. If they make a disclosure, in good conscience and in the public interest then they should be applauded, not vilified,” said Senator Murray.

“Journalists who report such things should be protected. The proposed new journalist shield laws help but only go so far. They will only work effectively in tandem with strong FOI and whistleblower legislation.

“It is time to properly protect free speech. In 2003 I introduced the FOI Amendment (Open Government) Bill and that should be passed. The Opposition has indicated that it is considering supporting its provisions. They need an unequivocal position on this to put to the people.

“I recently introduced the Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2007 to protect public servants who disclose genuine concerns. Public sector whistleblowers perform an essential public service in combating criminality, corruption or misconduct in the workplace.

“These two bills provide essential protections for whistleblowers. They provide mechanisms for journalists to keep the public fully informed about the workings of government. In the interests of transparency, freedom of speech and open and accountable government, it is essential they are passed soon,” concluded Senator Murray.

Media contact - Senator Andrew Murray 0419 958 038