Subject: Labor’s Misinformation Bill
Chris O’Keefe: David Coleman, he’s the Shadow Communications Minister. He’s part of the Liberal Party and the Coalition. The Federal Opposition has decided to formally oppose this Bill. David Coleman, thanks for your time.
David Coleman: Good afternoon, Chris.
Chris O’Keefe: What did you make of the Minister’s interview?
David Coleman: Oh it was pretty flabbergasting, to be honest. She said a number of things that just weren’t right, Chris. And one of them was when she said that this Bill is just getting the tech companies basically to do what they are already doing. That’s just not right. I mean, basically what this Bill does is put the Government in charge of determining what misinformation is. It is just not true at all to say that it’s simply doing what’s already happening. ACMA, as you said in your intro, can issue massive fines. And they sit at the top of the tree here and this is a very disturbing piece of legislation.
Chris O’Keefe: On this exposure Bill, the draft Bill, paragraph 36 provides ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, with significant coercive information gathering powers that can be exercised against any person who might have information or documents relevant to the existence of, amongst other things, misinformation or disinformation on a digital platform service. What so ACMA is going to raid people? Is that what that’s saying?
David Coleman: Well, yeah, section 19 of the Act basically says any person that ACMA thinks has been involved in misinformation, they can require that person to appear before them. And if that person doesn’t appear, they can issue them with fines of $8,000 per day. And the Law Council of Australia, which is literally the top legal body in the country, in their submission called this issue out. And they’ve described this as, ACMA’s coercive power that could be applied basically to any person. And so, Chris, we live in one of the great places on earth, one of the great democracies on Earth. And when you’re a Minister, it’s incumbent on you to be across the detail, to know what it is that you’re putting out. And I just can’t understand how the Minister could have put this Bill out and think that this was the right thing to do for the country, because it’s just not.
Chris O’Keefe: I don’t think their heart’s in it, to be honest. It doesn’t sound like it to me and I’ve covered politics for long enough to know when people are fair dinkum about a piece of legislation they want to pass. Because they’ve got a situation where, you know, the civil liberties groups, they’re against it, the Human Rights Commission is against it. You’ve got the union movement against it, the Federal Opposition against it. Who is for it? Nobody except Minister Michelle Rowland by the sounds.
David Coleman: I think that’s a fair summary, Chris. And when you combine pretty much everyone against a Bill, it tells you how bad it is. And I’ve been in this role for nearly ten years now in Parliament, and I haven’t seen anything quite like this. I haven’t seen a government put forward legislation that really strikes at the core of our democracy in the way that this does. And hopefully the Government just realises how appalling the situation is and just walks away from it. I certainly hope that’s what occurs because they can’t salvage this.
Chris O’Keefe: The Minister was saying, I am running out of time, David Coleman, but the Minister was saying that this is still part of the Liberal Party platform. Misinformation, disinformation Bill, fighting it is on the Liberal Party website as part of your policy platform. Is somebody going to go on the website and delete that?
David Coleman: Chris we would never, ever put out legislation like this. I mean, this legislation, we didn’t release legislation on this topic. The Government did. They own this legislation, this is Michelle Rowland’s personal project, her legislation and it’s a shocker. And we will fight it every step of the way.
Chris O’Keefe: David Coleman, have a good afternoon. Have a good weekend. Appreciate you jumping on.
David Coleman: Thanks, Chris.
Chris O’Keefe: That’s David Coleman, the Shadow Communications Minister.