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Inquiry into the impact of the exercise of law enforcement and intelligence powers on the freedom of the press

Police power Freedom of the press National security Australia

The inquiry was referred by the Attorney-General, following the public execution of search warrants on the residence of a News Corporation journalist and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Ultimo headquarters in June of 2019.

The Committee recognises that the subject matter of this inquiry, while limited somewhat by the terms of reference, is still significantly broad and some issues raised by submitters and witnesses may not be reflected in the evidence, commentary and recommendations of this report.

This report consists of three chapters:

Chapter 1 briefly describes the genesis and conduct of the inquiry, as well as the considerable amount of review and reporting that has been undertaken regarding the subject matter (or related issues) of this inquiry in recent years;

Chapter 2 briefly explores the background to the inquiry, as well as providing an overview of the current law enforcement and intelligence legislative frameworks that have been called into question, their associated impacts, and outlines some of the evidence provided to the Committee regarding the interaction between the media and law enforcement and intelligence agencies;

Chapter 3 delivers the Committee’s targeted summary of evidence and recommendations related to:

  • the opposing fundamental positions of the media and government on the way forward and the need for collaboration;
  • the law enforcement and intelligence powers in question, the warrants authorising investigation and public interest considerations;
  • offences and defences related to unauthorised disclosure of national security material;
  • the Public Interest Advocate Regime and potential enhancements to the scheme
  • current and potential Public Interest Disclosure mechanisms;
  • security classification of material;
  • protection of journalistic sources; and
  • Freedom of Information and defamation.
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