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Evidence (Journalists) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (18:08): I rise in support of this bill, which is similar to my 2013 and 2014 bills, which also addressed the issue of providing protections for journalists from revealing their sources. The issue of confidentiality is very important when people speak to journalists to expose matters. Individuals need to have confidence that when they are speaking out about important matters they will not be persecuted or punished for the information they provide to journalists.

Similarly, journalists need to be sure that they will be protected from having to reveal their sources. It creates trust between the journalists and the informant which can lead to important information being exposed to the public. The bill will do this by amending the Evidence Act and providing a protection for journalists from liability if they fail to provide information that would identify their sources.

The definition of 'journalist' is a point of contention which has been debated in this chamber before when it has considered previous versions of this bill. In 2014, the last time I introduced a similar bill, that version contained the same definition as the federal act. I note that the government has diverted from this; however, the Hon. Mark Parnell has filed amendments which will change the definition and I am supportive of this.

I understand another major issue which has been flagged is the use of the word 'reasonably' in 72B(1)(d) of the bill. Concerns have been put to me that by having such a word included it would insert a discretion as to whether a person reasonably expected their identity would be kept confidential. Requests have been received to have this word removed.

However, I understand that by having the word 'reasonably' in the bill it actually broadens the scope and the shield would have a wider application thereby protecting more people. The provision was in my original bill and I believe the public would be best served by retaining the word in the bill. People should be protected even if they only have a reasonable expectation of confidentiality rather than an explicit expectation.

Another major point of contention is whether courts should be able to remove the shield on their own motion or not. I note there have been amendments filed which will remove the ability for courts to do this; however, again, going back to my 2014 bill, this provision was clearly inserted into the bill then, albeit with slightly different wording, which allowed the Supreme Court to remove the shield on its own motion, if they believe there is a public interest to do so. I understand the Hon. Mark Parnell has moved amendments to this provision and I believe this is a good compromise position which deserves my support.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens.