Sunshine Coast Daily's Future Sunshine Coast event. Dan Purdie, Brent Mickelberg, Fiona Simpson and Marty Hunt.
Sunshine Coast Daily's Future Sunshine Coast event. Dan Purdie, Brent Mickelberg, Fiona Simpson and Marty Hunt.

State MPs hold dear the rights of a free press

THE region’s State MPs have offered up their views on the issue of press freedom as a national campaign ramps up to protect the public’s right to know.

Former police officer and Nicklin MP Marty Hunt said his party, the LNP, believed in “openness and accountability and the important role of journalists in our democracy”.

“The media must be able to hold all levels of government to account,” he said.

Maroochydore MP and ex-journalist Fiona Simpson said she supported “openness and accountability of government” and the rights, freedoms and responsibility of the news media, as a vital part of the liberal democracy.

“The more information on government services that is freely and proactively published without the need to pay to access Right To Information laws, the better,” she said.

Ms Simpson said the LNP had instigated the publication of ministerial diaries and open data.

“There is also a need for more meaningful performance measures on government service delivery to track outcomes, particularly in health, and to aid that scrutiny and accountability.”

She supported restrictions such as the sub judice law, which ensured the right to a fair trial, while other restrictions including not publishing identifying information about child sex victims were also reasonable.

“I think our society is generally best served by having rigorous and free-flowing debate and dialogue uncensored in the public space but that doesn’t mean that the freedom to do so comes without consequences of public approval or disapproval,” she said.

“I don’t think there needs to be additional restrictions but it is healthy to debate the current restrictions across the range of laws applying to free speech to make sure they are reasonable and balanced and to help deepen understanding as to their importance.”

Buderim MP Brent Mickelberg said it was imperative media was able to hold all levels of government to account, and it was also important to have a transparent government.

“In my opinion, the current right to information process is inadequate and requires work to ensure that where information is redacted the justification is sound and able to be appealed in a timely fashion,” Mr Mickelberg said.

He said all Australians should be subject to the law, and it was vital to ensure security operations and investigations weren’t compromised.

He said whistleblowers had at times played an important role in exposing wrongdoing, but the actions of those who sought to distribute sensitive information should be “subject to oversight”.

He didn’t support proposals which sought to absolve any Australian of their “obligation to adhere to the law, which considers national security implications of such actions”.

Jarrod Bleijie the member for Kawana.
Jarrod Bleijie the member for Kawana.

“Queenslanders have a right to know what governments are doing with their money and that is why we need a robust press to hold government to account,” he said.

Former Attorney-General, Kawana MP Jarrod Bleijie, said the laws must apply equally to all people, but he believed the media had to be able to hold all levels of government to account.

He said he’d worked as Attorney-General to improve transparency, with amendments to Right to Information legislation, to ensure easier access to information and more access to government agencies.

Glass House MP Andrew Powell, right.
Glass House MP Andrew Powell, right.

Glass House MP Andrew Powell said there was “no question” the media and journalists played an intrinsic role in holding governments to account.

He said he and his party believed governments “at all levels” needed to be open and transparent.

Independent Noosa MP Sandy Bolton said any increase to press freedom should be balanced with “increased responsibility and accountability”.

She said she encouraged residents to question their sources of information, and look to the credibility of those sources.

Sandy Bolton has her bags packed for a rare Townsville sitting of state parliament.
Sandy Bolton has her bags packed for a rare Townsville sitting of state parliament.

“Within Chamber, I put forth the questions that communities wish to be brought into these conversations, and ask questions of government, our systems and processes, that may often be put into the ‘too hard’ basket,” Ms Bolton said.

She supported better protection for whistleblowers, provided it didn’t put at risk lives of those working to protect and keep us safe.

“There should be again, responsibility and accountability for false information and reporting,” Ms Bolton said.

A free press was “extremely important” to her, and she said government should be “as efficient as any business, independently assessed for performance as it is funded by tax payers, and free of influences that are not in the best interests of Queenslanders, and Australians”.

She said there was a concern within communities, and MPs, that media played a role in poor behaviour in the Chamber, and from politicians, to get more sensational “grabs”.

“Media play a vital role in changing the face of what gets attention, and the culture being encouraged,” she said.

“It is not about restrictions, it is about the type of behaviour from all, including media, and to stop giving valuable space to content that harms.”

She believed Australians had a right to know what governments of all levels were doing, but that information needed to be accompanied by the reasons why.

As for what people didn’t have a right to know, Ms Bolton said “any information that puts any individuals safety at risk, or national security”.

“At all times, there needs to be the question of ramifications for false/misleading headlines and unbalanced reporting, and the responsibility we all have in this, including what can be perceived as bullying,” she said.

Ninderry MP and former child protection detective Dan Purdie said he wanted to see the findings of the Federal Parliamentary Committee, before making detailed comments.

“I strongly support the role of the media in holding governments of all levels to account, however I do believe there needs to be a balance between democracy and transparency when it comes to matters of national security,” he said.

“I don’t believe anyone is above the law, however, nor should anyone be exempt from abiding by the law in these matters (of national security).”

Caloundra MP Mark McArdle was unable to respond.