The West

Labor urges passage of shield laws
Labor urges passage of shield laws

Labor has called on the Barnett Government to ensure the urgent passage of shield laws through Parliament, despite acknowledging the legislation had some flaws.

The long awaited laws aim to protect journalists from giving evidence to a legal institution if they had promised anonymity to a source.

However, after an Upper House committee recommendation, which became an amendment, the privilege will not apply to parliamentary proceedings.

Under the legislation, the onus would be on the person seeking confidential information to prove to the courts why it should be released in matters involving disclosure of identity, but the reverse will apply in relation to the content of information.

Shadow attorney-general John Quigley said yesterday that the legislation gave "four-fifths of what's required" but should be rubber-stamped tomorrow to give journalists immediate protection.

"Journalists in this State will then be afforded the protection, and more importantly their confidential sources will be afforded the protection, that they enjoy in NSW, Victoria and in the Federal jurisdiction," he said.

In a matter before the WA Supreme Court, mining billionaire Gina Rinehart is attempting to force journalist Steve Pennells and _The West Australian _to hand over "communications" related to exclusive articles about her legal battles with her children.

Mr Quigley said if the action had been brought in NSW, it would have faced the challenge of the shield laws.

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance WA president Martin Turner said it was critical that journalists were able to provide sources with assurances that their information would remain confidential.

"We've clearly dragged our feet on this," he said.

"But surely we've matured enough as a society that we understand just how important the role of media is."

Premier Colin Barnett said he was confident the laws would pass the Upper House this week. He said on previous votes only eight Labor MPs turned up.

Mr Quigley dismissed the claim "as a bagful of eyewash".

The West Australian

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