Proposed amendments on espionage and foreign interference a positive first step
The Law Council recently expressed concerns at the depth and breadth of the provisions in the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 and Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017 and the unintended consequences that flow from them.
The Australian and other media outlets reported today, that the government proposed to introduce amendments to the proposed laws.
According to reports, the government proposes to:
- Narrow definitions applying to Commonwealth officers to ‘conduct that would cause harm to Australia's interests’, as well as the definitions of harmful information.
- Narrow the offence applied to non-Commonwealth officers to only be applicable to ‘the most serious and dangerous’ conduct.
- Allow journalists to defend their reporting on the basis that they ‘reasonably believe’ it was in the public interest, and not a requirement to prove it was ‘fair and accurate’.
Law Council President, Morry Bailes, said in a general sense the proposed amendments appeared to be a step in the right direction and the government’s intention to narrow some of the critical definitions was something that the Law Council had strongly recommended.
Mr Bailes attended the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Public Hearing in Canberra on Tuesday 30 January with Dr Natasha Molt, Deputy Director of Policy to speak further about the Law Council’s concerns with the proposed Bills.
Law Council President-elect, Arthur Moses SC and Law Council Legal Practice Section Not-for-Profit Legal Practice and Charities Group Member, Alice MacDougall also took part in the hearing by teleconference.
While there is still further work required to ensure we get these important bills right, the Law Council will continue to work closely with government, and parliament on this issue and looks forward to doing so.
Read the Law Council President, Morry Bailes’ opening statement and submissions on the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 and Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017.