There are obvious limits to every freedom we Aussies enjoy.
As Communications Minister Paul Fletcher points out, that also applies to freedom of the press, which he says is not ‘absolute’.
While this is certainly true, the Morrison government should stop waffling and commit to an inquiry on press freedom, as Labor calls for a parliamentary joint committee to look at the issue.
Paul Fletcher has hinted at an impending announcement on freedom of the press, but says he won’t be making any rash decisions.
‘I think it is premature to be leaping to particular solutions or responses,’ he told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.
‘We are open to a sober analysis of what the issues are, but let’s do that in a sober and reflective way.’
Mr Fletcher says press freedom has never been ‘absolute’, but is weighed against factors such as national security and defamation laws.
Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally says parliament needs to consider how to maintain national security while upholding press freedom.
Senator Keneally says a joint parliamentary committee would be the ideal way to conduct such a review and come to ‘sound conclusions’.
‘It is fundamentally important that we keep Australians safe, but it’s also fundamentally important to our democracy that we uphold one of its most basic tenets — and that is the freedom of the press,’ she told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
‘I’m quite open to speaking to the government about this … it is important that they now start to stand up and show leadership to the parliament, to media organisations and the community.’
The raids include one at the ABC off the back of stories published in 2017 alleging Australian soldiers may have carried out unlawful killings in Afghanistan, based on leaked Defence papers.
The other was on the Canberra home of a News Corp Australia reporter over a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.
ABC chair Ita Buttrose and managing director David Anderson met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Fletcher on Tuesday.
The meeting was scheduled before two police raids on journalists last week, which sparked a debate on freedom of the press.
The ABC plans to join forces with other media outlets to pinpoint areas of concern for press freedom in Australia and encourage the federal government to act on them.
Ms Buttrose last week complained to Mr Fletcher of the sweeping nature of the AFP warrant, saying it was ‘clearly designed to intimidate’.
She is weighing up legal avenues the ABC could pursue against the AFP.
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The Australian Tribune with AAP