Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – Sky News Sharri -Labor’s Misinformation Bill, Australian babies detained in Greece

Subjects: Labor’s Misinformation Bill, Australian babies detained in Greece



Sharri Markson: Now the Human Rights Commission has come out against the Anthony Albanese Government’s misinformation laws. They’ve put in a submission saying that the Bill has murky definitions of misinformation and harm. They say that the Bill will risk the freedoms that it aims to protect. Let’s bring in now, Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman. David, you and I have been talking longer than anyone about just how concerning this legislation is. We’re now seeing that all of these groups, including the Human Rights Commission, who actually analyse the legislation, are deeply concerned about what they’re reading.

David Coleman: Absolutely Sharri because this is terrible legislation. In ten years in Parliament, I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It goes to fundamental issues about freedom of speech. And the Human Rights Commission has absolutely smashed this legislation. They pointed out that Government content can’t be misinformation, but criticism of the Government can. They pointed out that in Australia you’re allowed to have opinions and that this legislation threatens the right of people to express those opinions. And it’s really a pretty comprehensive demolition of this Bill. And we saw something similar from the journalist’s union, from the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, who also came out and really hit this Bill as well. So, it’s just a disaster for the Government and they should put it in the bin.

Sharri Markson: Well, what do you think they’re going to do? I mean, everybody has come out against it. Do you think they’re going to persist with it or admit that they’ve got it wrong?

David Coleman: I’m not sure, is the short answer Sharri. I think clearly, they should throw it in the bin. But Michelle Rowland, perhaps she wants to press on. I mean, it’s hard to know because she seems to be avoiding media scrutiny on this issue and doesn’t seem to be fronting up for interviews. But if they do persevere with it, it would be a disgrace. And it’s a disgrace they put it out in the first place because every provision of a Bill should be thoroughly read and understood by a government before they publish it. So, either that didn’t happen here, which is a disgrace or it did happen, and they published it anyway, which is also a disgrace. And it is just amateur hour. And yeah, they should absolutely withdraw it completely.

Sharri Markson: I mean, we’re already seeing such concerning censorship of free speech, you know, including my colleague Peta Credlin. The fact that she had a post about the length of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It was labelled false by Facebook, even though at the very worst, even as Paul Barry from Media Watch says, it was a contested point. But clearly it should never be wiped from public consumption. People should be allowed to have a look at both the yes and the no side of the campaign on the Voice and make a decision for themselves. What did you think about the fact that Facebook is already censoring posts like this from the no side?

David Coleman: Yeah, they shouldn’t have done that because, as you say, I mean, people should be allowed to look at different views. And for Facebook to censor this, I think was inappropriate. I mean, the issue here, though, is under this Bill, it wouldn’t be Facebook doing it. It would be the Government requiring Facebook to do it. And so that’s a further step because that is directly involving government in deciding what we can and can’t read. And that’s just not on in a democracy in this way.

Sharri Markson: Look, I just want to ask you about this surrogacy scandal that we broke last night on the program, where you have newborns who are being held in a Greek hospital, denied access to their biological parents, also taken away from their surrogate mothers. What does the Government need to do here?

David Coleman: Well look, firstly Sharri, I’d say this is a really concerning story and for the families involved, it must be absolutely devastating. And my thoughts are with those families. It was good to see that our ambassador over there and DFAT have advised that they’re providing consular assistance to those families. Obviously, I’m not familiar with the allegations and the company involved and so on, but clearly, we need to support those Australian families and I think our thoughts are with them. It’s a very significant story that you’ve broken here, and our thoughts are with those Australian families who are affected.

Sharri Markson: All right, David Coleman, thank you very much for joining me tonight. And we’ll keep covering this misinformation or the proposed legislation because it is so concerning.