June 07, 2019 17:35:04

Labor MPs are urging their party to take a more “rigorous” and “strident” approach to national security laws in the wake of this week’s police raids on the ABC and on the home of a News Corp journalist.

Key points:

  • Labor is vowing to use Senate Estimates to hold the AFP and Defence chiefs to account
  • Labor backbencher Ed Husic suggested the reputation of the AFP was at risk of being damaged
  • Labor should “think very carefully” about laws put forward by the Government, Mr Husic said

The two raids in the space of 24 hours have united the media — both at home and abroad — against what is being perceived as heavy-handed tactics designed to intimidate.

So extraordinary were the events that the AFP chief was forced to hold a press conference, defending the agency’s actions and decrying the level of scrutiny his officers had been subjected to.

Labor is vowing to use Senate Estimates to hold the AFP and Defence chiefs to account, while it considers the issue of greater protections for journalists and whistleblowers.

Veteran Labor senator Kim Carr said he believed stronger protections were needed but laid the blame for this week’s events on the Coalition’s “politicisation” of security and intelligence agencies.

“This is a Government which has only been too happy to use the issues around immigration, boats, national security as a political weapon,” he told the ABC’s Campaign Trail.

Labor backbencher Ed Husic echoed that sentiment, suggesting the reputation of the AFP was at risk of being damaged.

“We should not have our security agencies and our police, the Australian Federal Police, put in a position where their job is being questioned,” Mr Husic said.

“And this is what the Government is doing in the way they’re mismanaging these type of issues.”

Labor should ‘think very carefully’

For years, Labor has worked in a bipartisan manner with the Coalition on national security legislation, helping pass dozens of bills, albeit with hundreds of amendments.

But it has also been a strategic play; Labor is determined to counter Coalition attacks that it is “soft” on national security and border protection.

Late last year, the bipartisanship was tested when Labor folded on so-called encryption laws, enabling the Government to ram the bill through Parliament before Christmas.

Mr Husic said the laws were flawed and needed much greater oversight, accusing the Coalition of “welching” on a deal to review them.

“We’ve tried to work constructively with the Government,” he told the ABC.

“Until the whole debate about the encryption laws put forward, we had a very good track record in respect of that.

“That act of bad faith by them should compel Labor to think very carefully about anything that’s put forward by the Government, and subject it to absolute rigour and be prepared to ask questions about getting the balance right.”

The Government has defended the AFP’s actions, arguing the agency is investigating possible breaches of national security.

ABC chair Ita Buttrose said she had a “frank conversation” with Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher on Thursday about the raid, which was “clearly designed to intimidate”.













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