HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [6.40 pm]: I rise to express my concern about the Australian Federal Police raiding the ABC’s offices in Sydney today. This follows yesterday’s raid on a journalist from News Corp Australia. Today’s raid on the ABC focused on three of its journalists in particular. As has been said, this suggests that our media outlets—the fourth estate—are not immune from government interference. I am deeply concerned about that. I want to acknowledge the good work done by John Lyons of the ABC, who live-tweeted the events as they unfolded. That forms a particularly important record of exactly what was going on at the time. This idea of “record” is particularly important when we consider the content of one of his tweets, which states —
AFP: I’m still staggered by the power of this warrant. It allows the AFP to “add, copy, delete or alter” material in the ABC’s computers. All Australians, please think about that: as of this moment, the AFP has the power to delete material in the ABC’s computers. Australia 2019.
I am really horrified by that. Anyone here who is concerned about democracy and the importance of having an independent press should be chilled to the bone by the events that have emerged today. I want to remind people that the AFP raid on the ABC offices relates to the exposure of probable war crimes committed by Australian forces in Afghanistan. This also follows the potential prosecution of whistleblowers. We should be encouraging whistleblowing. This is something that we are meant to be protecting. We should also be encouraging an independent press. I am deeply disturbed by the events of today, which demonstrate that we are seriously on the cusp of our independent press being seriously compromised.
I will make a couple of comments about a media release put out by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. One of the comments in that release by MEAA section president Marcus Strom was —
“It is equally clear that the spate of national security laws passed by the Parliament —
He is referring to the federal Parliament —
over the past six years have been designed not just to combat terrorism but to persecute and prosecute whistleblowers who seek to expose wrongdoing. These laws seek to muzzle the media and criminalise legitimate journalism. They seek to punish those that tell Australians the truth.
We really need to take heed of these sorts of comments. Obviously, over the next few days, further information will hopefully come to light. One thing that I really want to know is who authorised these AFP raids. Has the AFP allowed itself to become simply a partisan instrument in the government’s attempt to engage in a cover-up?
We need to protect the independent press. I note that over the last decade, Australia has tumbled down the rankings on the world press freedom index. We are going in the wrong direction. I am not always in agreement with the way the media chooses to portray particular things—indeed, I am constantly unimpressed by the way the Murdoch press chooses to portray the Greens and misrepresents what we stand for—but I recognise that that is the price we pay for having an independent press. I am very supportive of our ABC, which is important to have. However, part of having the ABC means that the government of the day and political parties have to accept that sometimes the media will not necessarily portray them in the light in which they want to be portrayed. The idea that the ability and capacity of the independent press to uncover serious wrongdoings and corruption will be limited certainly chills me to the bone.