Jul 13, 2012

Shield laws on trial in Peter Slipper case

The Peter Slipper case today will be the first test of the shield laws since their introduction.

Matthew Knott

Former Crikey media reporter

When shield laws for journalists sailed through federal Parliament last year, they were greeted with near universal whooping and hollering.  Whistlebowing MP Andrew Wilkie hailed the legislation, which allows journalists to protect confidential sources when called before the courts, as a “victory for freedom of speech”. The Greens, the Liberal Party and Labor — in a rare show of unity — agreed. The media, which has more than a little skin in the game, subjected the laws to far from vigorous scrutiny.


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13 thoughts on “Shield laws on trial in Peter Slipper case

  1. The Pav

    It is a call to hand over his communication with Ashby.

    The “source” is blown. How does protection of a confidentail source exists
    when the source is already know.

    Is the journalist really claiming professional privilige?

    Confidentiality in this case is a blind. They are trying to hide behind it.

    Perhaps they are concerned the truth will reveal unprofessional
    conduct and colusion, perhaps even conspiracy

  2. CML

    @ THE PAV – Absolutely right on! As far as I can tell from the media
    stories, Lewis is only being asked to provide details of his dealings
    with Ashby – no one else. So, what’s the problem? There is no
    “confidential source”. We all know about Ashby.

  3. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    It’s not a bad ruse by Lewis’s lawyers. We might ‘all know’ about Ashby but we don’t ‘know all’ or at least, not enough. What we don’t know, what has not been made public, may not be available from anyone but ‘the source’. If the source is legally protected by the shield laws then the confidentiality thing cuts both ways. Don’t you just love deft legal manoeuvring?

  4. The Pav

    Hmmm Charlie

    Good thought.

    Perhaps that’s why they want it kept confidential.

    If the whole lot came out then perhaps it might look like a fit up?

    Not that anybody from News Ltd would be involved in anything unethical w,=…would they?

  5. Madonna Airey

    Matthew thanks for the story on Shield Law- Australia does not have the same protection for journalists as the US.
    The Peter Slipper case is interesting, more so as the case unfolds, however best to keep my opinion to myself on this one.
    Re: Shield Law
    For me this is an interesting and timely topic for discussion.
    I am currently writing an essay on whether a journalist should be protected from revealing sources in court.
    When I started to unpack the question and began research,I asked myself the same question – what if it was a matter of national security?
    Initially I felt if I was in confidential situation I would want to protect my source/s at all costs… even if it meant contempt of court( for the right story).
    Then I asked the question – what if it was a matter of National Security?
    The answer was easy – a resounding NO…exception to the rule.
    Inasmuch as I would not perform an illegal act in the name of journalism just because my boss asked me. Ethics do not have a $ value – not for me anyway.


    A journalist colluding to commit an attack on an MP to then bring down a government hardly warrants protection, in my opinion. Lewis might try and hide behind this shield, but Ashby and Brough cannot.

    This has a long way to run, but already feels like Godwin Grech redux.

  7. AR

    Lewis is not being subpoenaed as a journalist but as a player, if not actually a conspirator, so privilege should be irrelevant.

  8. Mack the Knife

    I wonder how much hand wringing and doubts is going on in the H R Nichols Society (which is funding both the Craig Thomson and Slipper affairs) that they perhaps shouldn’t have started this ball rolling?

    About time Pyne, Abbott and others from this organisation were formally investigated in what is turning into another Godwin Gretch effort? After all, it is all intended to bring down a government.

  9. Merve

    Hacked by Caho? Is Crikey being leant on by the russian mafia?

  10. Gavin Moodie

    Legislation is a Bill before it is passed and an Act once it has been enacted. Each Australian Act specifies its title which includes the year in which it was passed. So the reference should have been to the Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Act 2011.

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