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Evidence Protection for Journalists

Evidence (Protection for Journalists) Amendment Bill

Speech to Parliament
30 October 2014

Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ) ( 11:06 ): I rise today to speak in support of this bill and to commend the great work done by the Hon. Stephen Wade in the other place and also Mr Darley in the other place who have worked very hard to put forward this bill on shield laws.

Shield laws aim to provide protection to journalists' sources by suppressing their identity and providing journalists with confidential source-to-journalist privileged communications. We need these laws to maintain a healthy, open society and we need free media to make sure that we can disclose corruption and wrongdoing within our society. 

Having worked in this field and having now moved into this role as a member of this place, I have had numerous sources come to me concerned about the fallout if their names are revealed. I hear those on the other side talk about examples of where this has not been displayed. The minister has said something along these lines: 'You don't know what you don't know.' I think there is something that needs to be pointed out here. He asks which people have come forward to say they are having an issue with this. That is perhaps the point of this law and where we sit in this debate. 

People who are afraid will not come forward and say so. They will not speak out, they will not divulge corruption and they will not divulge wrongdoing within society, because they are afraid to speak to a journalist for the fear that they may have their name and/or their identity revealed. They are scared to do so, so they do not come forward and say so. That is a reason why there is not evidence to put on the table to show the minister that this is what is happening out there. 

Public interest is what we have to be concerned about here. If people have the confidence to come forward and know they will be protected and know their names will not be revealed, they can, with confidence, say what is happening to a journalist. If they know the journalist will have the protection to protect them, then you will find that more people will come forward. To not do this is really just hiding corruption. People fear retribution and they will not come forward and say their piece. 

This is a law used internationally and, as was pointed out, it is used right around Australia. A number of states have adopted shield laws and I fear that if South Australia does not adopt these, we will just be falling further behind as we are in so many other areas across this country. Sources are privileged and journalists require these sources to come forward to divulge the goings-on, be they within government or within organisations, and people need to come forward and not fear retribution. 

I mentioned that, in a previous life as a journalist, numerous sources would come to me and their first concern would be whether or not their names would be revealed. They would often want to tell a story and often want a story reported. It also happens as a member of parliament. People have issues that they want to talk about and things they want revealed, but they are fearful of the repercussions should their names get out in the public. Without this protection, these people simply do not want their stories told: they do not want to get the message out there. 

As strong as it might be and as much as it might be to the greater good of the community, some people look after their own interests. I can understand that in this case because they may be concerned about their job, they have families to feed, and they have to run their lives and run businesses in a lot of cases and, if they come forward and reveal to journalists these points and have their story told, they fear the repercussions could be great. 

These laws really are to benefit everyone—as we said, to create a healthy, open society, to help the media tell these stories and bring things to light. If we do not bring these laws forward and allow journalists have this protection, people will keep quiet. Things will slip under the carpet. People will not have their say and illegal activity and corruption will continue to evolve. That is something I think everyone in this house is against. We would all like a clear, open society. We would all like to see wrongdoings exposed and we would all like to make sure that South Australia is a better place. 

I have a concern about the government not supporting this bill, and I think other people would have a concern, too. If you do not want to support that open dialogue, open communication and an honest, clear and transparent way of operating, people automatically think you have something to hide, and that is not what the people of South Australia would like or want. 

This is a bill, I think, to ensure transparency, independence and confidence in the public to speak out when they see wrongdoing without fear of persecution. I think this is a value that we all encourage and it is a value that we would all like to see in our society. I support this bill. I think shield laws and the ability to have a healthy, open society, free of fear of persecution, are vitally important to all people in South Australia. Again, I support this bill. 

 

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