Shadow Minister for Communications, Transcript – Sky News Sharri – Labor’s Misinformation Laws

Subject: Labor’s Misinformation Laws


Sharri Markson: Well, let’s bring in Shadow Communications Minister, David Coleman, to discuss. David, isn’t this introducing censorship like we see in China, North Korea and Russia?

David Coleman: Well, Sharri there’s real concerns with this legislation. If you have a look at it, it could be very broad in its application. And bottom line is, free speech is absolutely fundamental to who we are in Australia. Millions of Australians have come to this nation, have immigrated to this country because they value, prize, and love our freedoms, including freedom of speech. And the way this legislation is written, it does give a great deal of power to the regulator, the ACMA. And the definition of misinformation is very broad and could capture a lot of things that Australians would think absolutely should be allowed to be said in a in a free and democratic society.

Sharri Markson: Look, the Government has tried to argue that news outlets would be excluded, but news outlets aren’t excluded at the moment, as I’ve just outlined. There are already censorship, already stories that have been heavily censored by tech giants. That’s before they are threatened with millions of dollars in fines for censoring misinformation. So, and again, do you think that a journalist discussing their story on social media platforms would be captured by these laws?

David Coleman: Well, the way the definitions are, it doesn’t appear to exclude a journalist, sort of outside of what’s called a professional news platform. So, I think that’s possible, yes. And I think certainly, ordinary Australians would absolutely be caught by it. The definition of misinformation includes a statement which is unintentionally misleading. Now, you think about that, unintentionally misleading. Firstly, whether something is misleading or not is often very subjective. And secondly, there’s a lot of material that could potentially be caught by that definition. So, under these laws, the ACMA has the power to require people to appear before it, to answer questions about misinformation or perceived misinformation. And the risk is, that what will happen is, that the platforms will say, ‘Look, we don’t want to get big fines by the Australian Government, so what we’re going to do is proactively self-censor a whole lot of content.’ And there’s a very real risk that some of that content could be very legitimate content.

Sharri Markson: David under your Government, the Coalition Government, there was already a lot of censorship that happened during the COVID pandemic. Do you think that was unacceptable?

David Coleman: Well, look, Sharri, I think the key point really is that freedom of speech is incredibly important. And you think back through history, there have been many examples of people with unpopular, controversial ideas that turned out to be right. So, Governments should be very, very reluctant to step into this space. And Michelle Rowland, really needs to explain has she personally signed off on every clause in this draft law because they are very broad. We in the Coalition, will look at it very carefully. It’ll go through our normal Shadow Cabinet processes. But yeah, there’s very serious reason to be concerned here, I think.

Sharri Markson: Well, it’s not just the case, in my opinion, of Michelle Rowland explaining this. I mean, this just has to be dumped for certain because it impinges on free speech, it impinges on journalism. And we don’t want to be living in the sort of censorship that we see under China, North Korea and Russia. David Coleman, thank you for your time and thanks, everyone, for watching this evening, we’re out of time.

The Hon. David Coleman MP
Shadow Minister for Communications
Federal Member for Banks