MPs Llew O’Brien and Tony Perrett speak about the nationwide media campaign.
MPs Llew O’Brien and Tony Perrett speak about the nationwide media campaign.

What Gympie’s pollies say about public’s Right to Know

LLEW O’Brien says he supports the Australian media’s “democratic” Right to Know campaign but stressed journalists to report “ethically and accurately”.

Wide Bay’s Federal representative said there was an ongoing need for legislation to be reviewed - particularly on integrity matters - but it ws difficult to give an in-depth response to the proposed changes.

“It’s not specific enough for me to drill down on it,” he said.

MP Llew O'Brien.
MP Llew O'Brien.

The national campaign underway from Australia’s media outlets calls for six key reforms:

  • the right to contest any kind of search warrant on journalists or news organisations before the warrant is issued;
  • law change to ensure public sector whistleblowers are adequately protected;
  • a new regimen that limits which documents can be marked ‘secret’;
  • review of Freedom of Information laws;
  • that journalists be exempt from national security laws enacted over the past seven years that currently can put them in jail for doing their job;
  • and reform to defamation laws.

It follows Australian Federal Police raids on Newscorp journalist Annika Smethurst’s home and the ABC’s offices.

Mr O’Brien said there are some laws in need of a closer look.

“Whistleblower legislation is an extremely important part of the democratic process … you’ve got to protect those who are honestly exposing corruption or misconduct.”

Mr O’Brien said these protections “in some ways could be strengthened at the federal level”.

“Not all legislation is fantastic,” he said.

“There are sometimes fundamental errors or weakness in the law.”

The powers of the court to suppress information should also be given another look-over.

“I absolutely think legislation in regards to ethics and integrity needs to be reviewed … there needs to be a constant microscope.”

Llew O'Brien.
Llew O'Brien.

Mr O’Brien pointed to the issues circling the Queensland Labor Government as a prime example.

“A good example of where there’s a lack of a law is what the CCC (Crime and Corruption Commission) ruled in relation to (Queensland Deputy Premier) Jackie Trad.

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Ms Trad referred herself to the body after it was revealed she had bought a house at Wooloongabba but did not amend the state parliament’s register of members’ interests.

The house was near a proposed part of the State’s $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project.

Mr O’Brien said the CCC cleared Ms Trad “but basically said this should be against the law”.

“We’re 30 years away from Fitzgerald … if someone did that in the 80s it would be enshrined in political folklore,” he said.

However there needed to be discussion about the always-changing media lenadscape, too - including the definition of a journalist.

“What is a journalist?”

“Just because you’re a journalist you don’t deserve greater powers than everyone else.”

Perrett: Growing trend to keep information close to the chest

GYMPIE’S State MP has pointed to a trend for governments to keep information close to the chest as a growing problem, and not only for the public and the media.

Responding to questions about his thoughts on the nationwide media Right to Know campaign, Tony Perrett said there was a tendency for governments to “hold information close to themselves” or tie it up in processes is “quite frustrating”.

“This is one of the challenges when you’re in opposition.

“When you’re opposed you don’t have easy access to departmental information.

“Governments need to be open and transparent across all levels,” he said.

Tony Perrett
Tony Perrett

And now he said there was a “general apathy” within the community when it comes to chasing information.

Mr Perrett said it was important that all three tiers of government be allowed to be scrutinised.

He pointed to the State Government’s integrity scandals over the past year as a key reason for the importance of journalism.

“I’ve always supported the independence of media and journalists.

“I’ve always valued their independence.

“I’ve never run from journalists; I’ve always been available and tried to assist where I can.

“The ability for journalists to go about their work needs to be protected.”

He said politicians did not need to hide from or dodge the press.

“At times you get a few things thrown at you. but if you’re open with the community you’ll be fine,” Mr Perrett said.