Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – 2GB Drive with Chris O’Keefe- Labor’s Misinformation Bill

Subject: Labor’s Misinformation Laws

E&OE….

Chris O’Keefe: Well here is some good news, the Coalition is formally of the view or they have at least voted on it in the party room down in Canberra, they will not support Labor’s ridiculous misinformation laws. Now, Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman, he is taking carriage of it along with a whole bunch of his Liberal colleagues and said, ‘you know what, this is ridiculous and if we have a Communications Legislation Amendment, i.e. this Disinformation-Misinformation Bill, it could suppress legitimate free speech in Australia’. And you’ve heard me on this program, time and time again, saying that this is the best example of a slippery slope I could possibly imagine. Well, the Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman, is on the line. David, thank god, you guys have come up with some common sense. Will you be able to bury this thing?

David Coleman: Well, we certainly hope so Chris, this is an absolute shocker, a terrible piece of legislation. It should be ripped up into little pieces, put in the bin and thrown away because this would have a significant impact on the free speech of Australians. It would mean that political statements and communications of Australians would be subject to these misinformation laws. And that is just wrong in a democracy. We are one of the great democracies of the world and a big part of that is people get to say what they believe. And these laws are shocking and we’ll be fighting them every step of the way.

Chris O’Keefe: So where are you at, in terms of the next steps? Outside of the Labor Government, pulling the Bill altogether, chucking it in the wastepaper bin, which they should? If they do introduce it into the House of Reps, what do you guys need to do to block it?

David Coleman: Well look, it would have to get through the Senate in order to become law. So, based on where it is at, we’re against this. So, it would require the Greens and some of the crossbenchers to vote for it and certainly, hopefully they wouldn’t. I think the Government’s got to listen to all the feedback they’re getting. The Victorian Bar Association just came out a couple of days ago, and slammed this Bill, and its potentially chilling effect on free speech. There’s a whole range of submissions people are putting in at the moment. They’ve got until August 20 to do that. And hopefully what happens is the Government reads all those submissions and to be honest, Anthony Albanese, just sort of taps Michelle Rowland on the shoulder and says, ‘what are you doing here? We can’t proceed with this,’ and rips it up. That’s what should happen, but it remains to be seen.

Chris O’Keefe: Well, it feels to me that they’re not wedded to it. You hear nothing from the Government about the Disinformation or Misinformation Bill. There’s a lot of opposition to it. You don’t hear a lot of support about it, which makes me think, David Coleman, you’ve been in Government, if you’re not singing its praises from the rooftops, it might be for the heave-ho.

David Coleman: I don’t get the sense that the Minister’s colleagues are out there on the frontlines with her on this issue. Because I mean, how do you defend it? How do you stand up and say, yes, the Government should be exempt from these laws, but the average Australian in Revesby shouldn’t be exempt? Because that’s what they’re saying.

Chris O’Keefe: Yeah, and also, you can sign up to be a political candidate and say whatever you want, because you’re covered under that aspect of the carve out in the draft legislation, which is insane.

David Coleman: You’re covered for authorised electoral content. Politicians aren’t covered for just general statements or things they say at forums or whatever. So you could have a scenario where the Government has an authorised position on an issue, and other politicians or candidates say things against it, and those could be actually misinformation, because only certain types of communications have the exemption. Academics are exempted, but not somebody who’s maybe in a disagreement with an academic under this law.

Chris O’Keefe: And the thing is, the panel inside ACMA, who are they? Who are these people who think that they can determine what is true and what is not? That is a pretty, you know, are they God?

David Coleman: Well, indeed, it’s pretty extraordinary Chris. It’s very hard to understand how the Government thought, this is a good idea, that we should do this. It just doesn’t make any sense. We must cherish our freedoms and our democracy. We are one of the relatively few countries in the world, where you can say what you think, where you can, within the bounds of the law, express your view, even if it’s unfashionable, even if it’s not trendy, you’re allowed to say it and we must always treasure and protect that. And this Bill would have a big negative impact on that. And that’s why it’s such a bad piece of legislation.

Chris O’Keefe: We’ll keep fighting it and hopefully you can bury it. David Coleman, appreciate your time.

David Coleman: Thanks, Chris.

Chris O’Keefe: And well done. That is David Coleman, the Shadow Communications Minister. And well done to Peter Dutton and the entire Liberal Party Room for seeing some sense here and all coming together to say, ‘you know what, as a Liberal Party, as the party of the free markets and free thinking and free speech, the Disinformation Bill, it ain’t for us.’