Spy law changes still not right: Labor

Attorney-General Christian Porter hopes Labor will support the amendments to espionage legislation.Proposed laws that could have threatened journalists and whistleblowers with 20 years in jail still aren’t right despite changes, Labor says.

The federal government on Tuesday released its proposed amendments to controversial spying laws aimed at protecting whistleblowers and journalists who reveal national secrets from severe jail terms.

The laws targeting foreign states trying to influence ‘s political landscape came under fire after media organisations raised concerns journalism could be criminalised.

Provisions threatening journalists and whistleblowers with jail sentences of up to 20 years have been wound back, and journalists, editors and support staff won’t have to demonstrate their reporting was “fair and accurate”, as long as they reasonably believe their conduct was in the public interest.

But shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus says there are still serious issues with the bill, which has drawn fire from charities, community groups, media organisations, and the Law Council of .

“The government still hasn’t got this right. There are still holes all through it,” Mr Dreyfus said on Tuesday.

The changes will also narrow the definition of conduct that would cause harm to ‘s interests to protect public servants who leak to journalists.

“There has been no intention to unnecessarily restrict appropriate freedoms of the media,” Attorney-General Christian Porter said in a statement.

Offences for non-public servants will only apply to the most dangerous and serious conduct.

Mr Porter said he was hopeful Labor would support the amended bill, which he believes protects while maintaining media freedom.

“There is a strong history of bipartisan support for national security legislation in ,” he said.

The amendments will be considered by a parliamentary committee, which is scrutinising the bill, before it delivers its report later this month.

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