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Greens Now Knowingly Support Press Gag

Continuing to support the Wilson-Clark press gag law has turned the Greens into political poodles, ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Initially the Greens' support for the criminal defamation clause in the Electoral Amendment Bill (No. 2) was ignorant. Now they know about it, they are acting like political poodles.

"Adding "knowingly" or "recklessly" is an improvement but the clause remains stupid: * It applies only to written material so it is targeted at the internet and newspapers, leaving radio and television untouched; * It will take case law to decide whether the defamation defences apply, including the "Lange v. Atkinson" extra protection for robust discussion of politicians. The better legal view is that they probably don't apply. * It does not have to be material. An intention to influence the vote is enough.

"The Greens didn't participate in discussion at Select Committee. They supported the Government's shut-down of parliamentary debate on the clause before it could be discussed. Now they are willing to help Clark and Wilson shuffle this defective law off the front pages, irrespective of how bad it remains.

"If the Greens were principled they would join ACT in making sure the clause is dropped from this Bill. It can be included in the next electoral amendment expected before the 2002 election. That would ensure that it gets proper select committee review.

"The Greens are colluding with Clark and Wilson to ensure that the provision does not go back to a Select Committee. That ensures the media does not get an opportunity to make submissions, and lawyers do not get a chance to point out the remaining defects.

"We know the Labour/Alliance Government do not respect free speech, as demonstrated by the Local Electoral Act passed earlier this year. It is ominous for our liberties when the Greens are prepared to collude with Labour and Alliance knowingly, to rush through bad law only to allow the Government to cut short negative media attention," Mr Franks said.

Ends


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