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Secrecy, privacy, security, intrusion

When did our government become the worst threat to Australian consumers?

Forum members will no doubt be able to add to the list.

Apparently, this has been going on for some time:
The greatest number of requests for information are to the relatively new Department of Home Affairs. There’s remarkably little response.


Since September 11 2001, Australia has passed 82 (and counting) national security laws. This is more than anywhere else in the world and some of these laws grant the government uniquely severe powers of detention and interrogation.


What can I say? Stop voting for ‘them’.


I can see why there is a need for the media to suppress information in many cases. no differently to suppression orders made by the courts to ensure that individuals or organisations are protected.

I don’t agree with a Media Freedom type law as this may allow media organisations to release inappropriate information under the disguise of being in the public interest or the public has the right to know. I personally wouldn’t want to be subject to media attention with inappropriate information being released about myself (either fact or fiction), with the media hiding behind such legislation. It would be very costly for an individual or organisation to defend oneself or take action in such cases.

This could be easily resolved by the government requiring released whistle-blower information to be arbitrated by a independent tribunal or court, to determine risk of the release of such information and whether there is justification for such releases in the public interest.

It could comprise of say a number of Federal or High Court judges which carry out a closed session, hearing arguments from both parties (such as the media organisation and the relevant government agency). The outcome would be a determination of whether the information can be released as it is in the public interest, or if the information poses risks to an individual or organisation and as a result should be suppressed and/or whether it is in the public interest to release such information. The legislation could be drafted to ensure that in the determination of public release (in full or partly redacted infromation), all involved are protected from any other legal actions.

The above could apply to sensitive government information which is restricted by virtue of legislation or extend to say intellectual property/commercial in confidence information which could be from public or private organisations.

As history has indicated the number likely cases in relation to national security would be low and would not be onerous in relation to time or resources for independent arbitration.

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I am sure the government of the day would appoint such a tribunal fairly, without any political overtones. Surely they would. They could also use that to tie up the topic for a l.o.n.g time, especially whilst they passed some retroactive laws to cover themselves…

History possibly suggests that open information is mostly dangerous to a government because it exposes the government’s own misdeeds, often damning misdeeds, more often than anything related to a nations security.


Not necessarily, it could involve information about action currently underway from a enforcement agency (such as this example where the information was allowed to be released and is a potential precedent for this model) or information relating to a particular event which may occur (such as a imminent terrorist activity or a search warrant being executed (noting that didn’t a MP’s office do this…)) which someone thinks should be released to the media.

The arbitrator could have very narrow terms such as one has to demonstrate that the information may impact on the security or protection status of an individual or organisation. There could also be timeframes where the information is released (say 7 years)…a bit like cabinet papers and when the issue is likely to not be an ongoing relevant concern.

It would be good if say a Commonwealth ICAC existed, as it could be a function of such a organisation to hear and make determinations. It would also be difficult to stack a independent review body if the body was a consideration of the whole of parliament and not just the government.

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How is that possible? “inappropriate” contradicts “in the public interest”. :slight_smile:

The only problem with this that I see is that the media will usually release first and ask questions later. That is, they make the judgement about what is in the public interest and get second-guessed by a court later on.

A determination by a court (a real court) in advance, as you suggest, should address that concern.

The two high profile cases that led to where we are today would (in my biassed opinion) clearly fall into the category of “in the public interest” - and the media organisations would be protected from heavy-handed police access to their underwear drawer, literally or metaphorically speaking.

The court process would need to be conducted in a way that protects the identity of the source - since the court would not be trying the source in any way, not making a determination in any way as to whether the source has violated the law.

I assume that the government in ‘contesting’ such a court action is conceding the legitimacy and accuracy of any documents that the media is relying on. That is, if the government chooses to claim instead that the documents are forgeries then the government gives up the right to carry out (heavy-handed) raids.


Just thinking aloud…such as taking secret photos of a person (such as a person getting dressed beside a private pool using a drone) and releasing these as being in the public interest. Information which may be factual, but may be private or not appropriate for public digestion (private and personal messages released by a estranged partner) etc. I am sure there are many other examples…

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Little is ever 100%. Your exception is well taken but when a ‘reporter’ exposes such things or breaches documented embargoes on release until such a time, their careers should be over.

That it would. In today’s news it appears NSW might be getting ‘ICAC fatigue’ and responding by reducing the budget. Surely they can keep up the good work, add on some more, and work with less. Surely they can :roll_eyes:

Example in Australia in this century please where the members were 50:50, not 51:49 advantage to government :wink:


If that were the case, it is more likely that a court would rule that it is not in the public interest to release the information. The media organisation could always try again at a later date when the ‘action’ is complete e.g. a suspect arrested. The government should not be able to delay indefinitely. I would suggest an indicative figure of 2 years for an ongoing operation but, again, it is open to the government to argue in court why it is still in the public interest to keep things a secret, regardless of the timeframe.

None of this has any relevance to the actual two cases that led us to where we are today.


That’s why I am suggesting that it is the actual court system that makes the determination, not some ‘independent’ authority, body, tribunal, …


Point taken, but an example could be similar to the Executive and High Court Appointments.

One can’t solve all the world’s problems, but bouncing around ideas has merit as maybe someone from the government may read the thread.

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Seeking a court determination in advance would knock out situations where the interest is only prurient.

This is for serious public interest media stories (like abuse of power or extrajudicial killings or government policy proposals), not trash media stories about baby bumps.

I would hate to be the judge on the Barnaby Joyce case though. Is it in the public interest to know that an MP is putting it about and getting someone up the duff while his party at least, if not he himself, pushes ‘family values’? Again though, that is not on a par with the actual two stories that led us to where we are today.


Would we like to think so! But if they do I fear it would be only a staffer to inform them about the next upcoming [fill in your topic] coming their way that they have to deflect.



In the spirit of:
“better to ask forgiveness than permission”.
The problem with asking is that permission is unlikely and the subject is forewarned. Who knows what might go through the shredders?

It really is up to the media to make that call. If they get it wrong, then that can be dealt with after the event (and not by heavy-handed attempts to chill further disclosure).


Here is a little case study. It isn’t about a world-shattering problem but it is simple and clear.

Satellite images question how private dams filled during Murray-Darling pumping embargo

Member for Parkes Mark Coulton is calling on the MDBA to remove the information about farmers in his electorate until further investigations are completed.

“I am very disappointed with the insinuations that have resulted from a published document identifying private storages in the Namoi and Macquarie Valleys as alleged sites of illegal pumping during an embargo,” he said.

"Without any charges being laid, and in the absence of any thorough investigations whatsoever, farmers in my electorate could be linked with illegal activity.

"The farmers in my electorate play a crucial role supporting not only the local economy, but also contribute to valuable export income for our country, and for them to be portrayed as being dishonest without comprehensive investigation is extremely insulting to them and their families.

“I call on the MDBA to remove this information until further investigations are completed.”

Here is a news service publishing facts. The images are factual. The relevant authority uses such images to enforce the law and are investigating these cases - all true. There are no elaborate interpretations made, no bias or beat up.

But the Honorable Member doesn’t want the facts published, in case somebody gets the wrong idea, insinuations are so troublesome. ‘Well I ain’t incinerating nuthin but you caint fool dem hoss flies’

Perhaps there is an innocent explanation for this, if so Mr Coulton what is it? What are your facts in rebuttal? Crickets. Until the matter is settled (or fades from notice) we the public are not competent to form our own conclusions. What kind of system do we have where such a call for secrecy is made without turning a hair, it’s just the normal thing to attempt to deny information to the public.


I’ve never seen an option to vote for other than ‘politicians’ … I have witnessed artwork and commentary drawn and inscribed on ballot papers, and while these may be interpreted by some as protest, they do not contribute to electing representatives.

Measuring secrets we don’t know is a tricky business … the things we don’t know that we don’t know, to partially quote Mr Rumsfeld :rofl:


The risk of such publication in part keeps people from doing the wrong thing.

If you know that you will be able to use threats, intimidation, BS laws, … to keep a misdemeanour a secret then it is an incentive to (keep) doing the wrong thing.


It does seem that they want to know everything about us, yet they want to keep secret everything about them and their mates.

If they have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear. :smirk_cat:


An interesting case to contemplate in this regard is the Lawyer X case. Most of the legal debate was about the suppression of the identity of Lawyer X. Suppose instead though that this case had come to light much earlier and that a media organisation wanted to publish the fact of the existence of Lawyer X and her scenario.

To publish would almost certainly compromise investigations or even trials that were underway at the time but it could nevertheless be in the public interest to publish anyway.

Read the extract from the High Court’s judgement

The behaviour of the police so debased the justice system that it would have been better to compromise the investigations sooner rather than later (“later” is what in fact happened, or will happen as it all unravels over the next few years).

This case is exactly the kind of public misconduct that we need a robust media for, rather than allowing the authorities to frustrate the media in court for months or years in order to keep that misconduct out of the public eye.


As you point out the Terrorists are winning with the Democracy/freedoms right wingers claim they fight for having been eroded away. We are spied on more than any Fascist or Dictator led regime in history. The Press have finally woken up to this just now because they realise how bad it can get under this extreme right government. But the Public has had their faith in the Media eroded a long time ago. Just witness the last election the Media had no standards when it came to political advertising they just fed at the trough and allowed any garbage to be published and remain unquestioned. If we had a real Press we would have had an Inquiry into the Iraq War and people sent to the Hague to face crimes for that War. If we had a Media they would be pointing out to Dutton that the biggest push factor for Refugees in the Middle East is our ongoing commitment to invade and intimidate in the Middle East for Oil and its also the reason for the huge increase in Terrorism especially around ISIS. The biggest threat to us is our own Government by ignoring Global Warming they are threatening the Environment, destroying species, destroying farmings future and keeping our Military in war torn Middle Eastern countries for Oil supplies we have only 2 weeks for. Scared of cheaper power thats cleaner and can be sourced in our own backyard there is either gross stupidity, ignorance or arrogance based on some level of corruption. We need to win the fight for the Media but we need them to stop printing the right wing fossil fuel lover lies and start to get real on Global Warming.