Greens Senator David Shoebridge has expressed concerns that the outcome of the review of Australia’s oppressive secrecy scheme runs the risk of increasing the reach of secrecy laws, even as it usefully reduces the number of criminal secrecy offences.
The announcement from the Attorney General today of the next stage of the secrecy offences review notes support for retaining political oversight of prosecutions of journalists.
The review recommends the removal of criminal sanctions from 168 secrecy offences out of the 875 while at the same time proposing a new overarching offence targeting public servants who breach confidentiality where this causes harm.
Greens Senator and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“The collective outrage at the steady creep of secrecy laws has clearly been heard by this Government, but unfortunately this review doesn’t yet deliver the scope of change needed to get the balance right.
“The fact that there are 875 secrecy offences on the books is evidence of a culture of concealment that needs fundamental root and branch reform not a quick trim.
“We welcome the proposed removal of criminal sanctions from 168 secrecy offences as a step in the right direction but it’s far from enough.
“The newly proposed overarching secrecy offence targeting public servants is extremely concerning when public servants are already being prosecuted as whistleblowers under existing laws.
“If the trials of David McBride and Richard Boyle demonstrate anything it's that we need less oppressive secrecy laws, not a brand new catch all secrecy offence.
“We know secrecy laws have a massive impact on press freedom and whistleblowers and any reform must start from this essential fact,” Senator Shoebridge said.