Attorney-General John Rau has done it again and extended South Australia’s mantle as the “Secret State”.
Last week, Mr Rau introduced a Bill titled Statutes Amendment (Attorney-General’s Portfolio) Bill 2016 with a press release claiming to relieve 70 year old jurors from jury duty if they chose.
The Attorney claimed the Bill dealt with “minor errors, omissions and other technical deficiencies in legislation” (Hansard, 24/02/16), often described as a rats and mice Bill.
However, hidden in the Bill are proposed laws to make it harder for journalists and third parties to obtain information from the Courts in criminal cases.
The new law will require a person seeking information to formally lodge an application and wait until the prosecution and defence have put submissions in respect of the application.
“This is a clear attempt to restrict access to information which the public have a right to know,” said Shadow Attorney-General Vickie Chapman.
“The Courts already have power to issue suppression orders and restrict access to sensitive material under the Evidence Act.
“Applications to protect sensitive material can be made during the case and this frequently occurs with the issuing of suppression orders and condition publications orders.
“The law already provides for a maximum penalty for $8000 and/or imprisonment for 2 years, for improperly disseminating sensitive material.
“The protection against the abuse of executive power requires an independent judiciary, the democratic Parliament and freedom of the press.
“This is why it is so important for the Courts and Parliament to be open to the public
“This is another example of the Weatherill Labor Government’s Secret State.
“If you can’t spin your way out of bad news, suffocate access to the source and sabotage the messenger!”