Labor backs security law reform

FEDERAL Labor has backed the Abbott Government's first of three major reforms to national security laws, which could see journalists and whistleblowers criminalised from exposing details of intelligence operations.

A parliamentary committee examining the first of the government's three "tranches" of security reforms on Tuesday approved the reforms, subject to some minor changes.

In particular, despite protestations from the media union and transparency advocates, the committee said it was not "appropriate" to exempt reporters from new measures criminalising the disclosure of "special intelligence operations".

A report from the committee on its inquiry said the decision not to allow an exemption was in part due to a lack of definition of a "journalist" in the digital age.

But the disclosure measures in the bill would also criminalise intelligence insiders who wish to go public, proposing jail terms of up to five years for insiders who blow the whistle on intelligence operations.

However, the bipartisan approach to the security reforms would also ensure more oversight of intelligence operations by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

The report was released out of parliamentary sessions to "facilitate debate" before it is expected to come before parliament during next week's sittings.

- APN NEWSDESK


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