Lone senator against controversial publishing laws

Senator David Leyonhjelm
Senator David Leyonhjelm AAP Image - Lukas Coch

A SENATE crossbencher was the only parliamentarian who tried to block moves to jail reporters, or whistleblowers, for publicising details of special search warrants on Tuesday.

The controversial measure is part of the second of three tranches of the Abbott government's foreign fighter's bill.

With Labor's support, the government expected to pass the counter-terrorism legislation in the Senate last night, despite making some changes after a committee examined the bill.

Both major parties and The Greens proposed changes on Tuesday.

Among the bill's many measures, it would allow the Attorney-General to declare areas of foreign countries deemed to be havens for terrorist activity off limits for Australians.

If Australians were to travel to such areas, under the legislation, they would have to prove they were not involved in terrorist activity while abroad to be allowed to return.

While Labor, after caucus debate on Tuesday, will still back the measures, they proposed conditions on such measures, to allow for religious travel and for "friends" to accompany people to such declared areas.

But the Opposition was still expected to pass the bill irrespective of if its amendments were approved by the Senate.

The bill will also allow people who disclose information about "delayed notification search warrants" to face two-year jail terms.

The government and Labor have backed the measure.

The intelligence community proposed it to allow officers to use warrants, but not tell the subject of the warrants until up to 18 months after a search was completed.

It meant media or whistleblowers who reported on the application for, execution of, and conduct of officers involved in executing such warrants would face jail if they publicised such information.

But Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm was the only senator to propose changing those measures, to allow reporting of such operations if it was "in the public interest" or concerned corruption or misconduct related to the issuing or execution of the warrants.

Debate on the bill was scheduled to continue in the Senate on Tuesday night.


Topics:  journalism media politics publishing senate

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