March 17, 2015
Attorney-General Senator George Brandis speaking to the media at Parliament House in Canberra.
BLOGGERS are unlikely to be covered by provisions protecting journalists in the govenment’s controversial metadata retention bill.
Attorney-General George Brandis said the measures would be introduced to the House of Representatives today.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday agreed to amend the laws to ensure journalists be better protected under the bill amid fears investigative journalism would be stifled.
A further amendment will be moved requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to access journalists’ metadata to identify a source.
But Senator Brandis said bloggers would not be covered by the provisions.
“I wouldn’t regard bloggers as journalists,” Senator Brandis told ABC radio.
“A journalist is for the purposes of this law a person engaged in the profession of journalism.
“There is an interesting argument of course about what the margins of a journalist is, ultimately that is a matter resolvable by the courts.”
Senator Brandis said the whole debate over journalists being targeted by these laws however was a “red herring”.
“The target are criminals, paedophiles and terrorists. Journalists are not the object of the law,” he said.
Attorney-General Senator George Brandis after speaking to the media at Parliament House in Canberra.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said there should be provisions in the amendment that would ensure a journalist would know when a warrant was being issued.
He said Australia should follow the lead of the US on the laws.
“(Whistleblowers) won’t come forward if they don’t know they will be protected.
“It will have a chilling effect on investigative journalism.”
Under the government’s new data retention laws which it hopes to pass in the next sitting fortnight, Australian phone and internet providers will be required to store various customer metadata for up to two years for law-enforcement agencies’ access.
No warrant will be required to access the data, just an agencies’ senior officer’s sign off.
News Corp Australia revealed last week Privacy Commissioner Tim Pilgrim was concerned a hack of the data could put Australians’ personal security at risk.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Pilgrim revealed his concerns about the laws, saying people who wanted to keep their addresses private, like those with an AVO out against someone could be placed in “serious physical danger if there was to be a breach”.
“Certainly I have seen occasions before where when there is a breach the organisation at fault has had to assist the person to move locations and change addresses,” Mr Pilgrim said.
“There would be different extremes of different cases … but this is one of the great risks.”