Australian bill would jail those who report on leaked spying operations


Journalists in the US and UK may be relatively safe from the government’s wrath when they report on surveillance leaks from the likes of Edward Snowden, but the Australian press may have to tread carefully before too long. Attorney General George Brandis has presented a bill that would make it a crime to reveal information that might “prejudice the effective conduct” of “special intelligence operations,” such as those from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). It also creates new charges specific to people who might become whistleblowers, such as contractors and the spies themselves.

There are frequently legitimate concerns that a leak might compromise an ongoing surveillance campaign. Snowden’s media friends frequently withhold info that they know would put people in jeopardy, for example. However, critics like the Australian Lawyers Alliance warn that the bill is far too broad. It’s not clear just what “effective conduct” or “intelligence operations” would involve – agencies like ASIO could cover up abuses of power by claiming that any activity is sensitive and needs to kept from the public eye. If there’s any consolation to free speech champions, it’s that the measure has to survive a parliamentary debate later this year before it has a chance of becoming law. There’s already stiff opposition from politicians, lawyers and advocacy groups, so the bill might be shot down before it jeopardizes civil liberties.


On the one hand I can see why the government needs to have such spying techniques protected or else terrorists and others will be able to outwit them and evade being spied on.

But on the other hand, I think there needs to be some more transparency and accountability when it comes to spying. For another thing, I think that they need to get a warrant from a judge, and not some super secret judge like they supposedly have for the NSA, before they are allowed to spy on others unless it is an absolute emergency and even then they ought to be required to attempt to get an emergency warrant first.

The whole spying thing just bothers me though for various reasons. For one thing, I have a phobia of being spied on because of my mental illness and because I have been hacked in the past and was spied on through the use of Trojan Horses. For another, I have been an inpatient in a mental hospital several times and of course they have to “spy” on you in order to keep you safe there. Regardless, I always felt like my privacy was being invaded regardless of whether it was justified or not and it has lead to a fear of me being spied on. And with the government growing increasingly authoritarian, this kind of thing worries me. I definitely don’t engage in criminal behavior but I worry about being unfairly discriminated against because of my views on various subjects which are contradictory to the views of those in various government positions. I realize that my fear is quite likely to be irrational at times and maybe even all of the time but it is still a fear the plagues me nonetheless.


There are several arms to this new proposed law. Firstly a warrant would no longer be required to cover every phone tap or other surveillance, rather a person would be targeted and everything used, taps on phone; satellite targeting etc would be covered in the one document. Our signals directorate can spy on a large coverage of telecommunications throughout South East Asia as was proven when it spied on the Indonesian’s President’s phone.
The law will also allow indemnity against prosecution for laws that may have been broken in taking down a spy. This will exclude torture and targeted assassination.
It will allow ASIO ,our internal spy force, to target people outside of Australian territories who may be a threat to the State. It will also allow ASIS, our external spy force to have certain indemnities in any action against terrorists acting against our national interests.
Already any Australian citizen fighting for terrorist organisations will not be allowed to return to Australia. The sixty persons that are known to have returned after such activities are under constant surveillance with their every action monitored.
It seems to have the backing of the major parties so its passage through parliament seems assured at this time.
Many people worry about surveillance, however you cannot go down any city road without coming under CCTV coverage from local council’ transport authorities; stores, banks etc
If you are not committing a crime why should anyone worry?
I understand that in America a lot of people have a paranoia about their government, but this is not the case in Australia, where we are only scared of most of the wild life, sharks and being seen with an untidy lawn.


This does not sound like a good law to me. They need to have a warrant before they can do that.

The reason why I am opposed to spying such as this is simply because I don’t trust the government. Here in the United States, our government is growing increasingly authoritarian and some could even argue that it is becoming tyrannical. Because of this, I am not sure that I would want to trust a government which could easily abuse the information they obtain by spying on us.

For example, the IRS was caught targeting conservative organizations last year for increased scrutiny. I don’t know if they got their information from spying or not but the fact is that information obtained by spying could easily be used to discriminate against those whose thoughts, behaviors, affiliated groups, etc are against the established politically correct “norm” of the primary governing party.


I am sorry if I was not clear- a court warrant would still be required but would be a general one against an individual not allowing for one specific phone tap, but allowing a general surveillance using any type of scrutiny available.
I might have a different view if I was American, however I would find it very difficult to live under a government I could not trust. I vote a certain way in a similar two party political democracy as yours. But I have not felt uneasy when the other party has been in government, apart from their anti-life policies. We seem to be more relaxed somehow over here. I wish you well and hope that your fears are allayed by good government.
I just feel the good guys must have as many tools against the terrorist as possible.



don’t forget ‘supporting an AFL team that’s terrible’


Thank you very much. I appreciate that. :slight_smile:


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