Attorney-General George Brandis
Attorney-General George Brandis AAP Image - Tracey Nearmy

Attorney General consulted before reporter prosecution

ATTORNEY-GENERAL George Brandis has moved to ensure a minister will have to approve prosecutions against reporters for revealing intelligence operations.

The move, Senator Brandis said, was to dispute what he claimed was a "false story" that journalists could face 10-year jail terms for reporting details of "special intelligence operations".

Legislation including the controversial provisions was passed by parliament last week, with Labor's support.

But after Opposition leader Bill Shorten on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Tony Abbott for a belated "review" of the laws, Sen Brandis announced the change.

However, asked later about the change of heart, Mr Shorten said he raised the issue after "louder concerns" were made public.

Mr Shorten's concerns came only days after media figure Lachlan Murdoch publicly criticised the laws.

Sen Brandis said the move meant that he or future Attorney-Generals would be politically and personally responsible for any future prosecutions.

However, he said that such prosecutions were "barely imaginable", and that the measures in the government's first national security bill was "not about journalists".

Sen Brandis said while such prosecutions could still be brought by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, the new measure was a "very powerful safeguard".

The changes were made under the CDPP Act. They require the Attorney-General to be consulted and no prosecution can go ahead without permission.


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