Key independent voices in federal parliament have spoken out in favour of freedom of the press after this week's unprecedented advertising blitz by major media outlets campaigning for stronger protections for journalists and whistleblowers.
Australia's Right to Know, a coalition of about 20 media organisations and industry groups including Australian Community Media, wrote to all MPs and senators this week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison told question time he would not rule out pursuing ABC journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clarke and News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst over the publication of classified documents.
Helen Haines, independent MP for the seat of Indi on the NSW-Victoria border, said the Attorney-General should not decide which journalists were prosecuted.
"The Attorney-General is a member of the government so straight away, how can you trust that?" she said. "It needs to be at arm's length, anyone would expect that."
Dr Haines supported the public's right to know and the media's role.
"I think this is the government's opportunity to protect freedom of the press in a way that's real and has teeth, demonstrating that we're not afraid of the public's right to know," she said.
Tasmanian independent Senator Jacqui Lambie said "public interest journalism shouldn't be a crime".
"I'm all about holding the powerful to account," Senator Lambie said. "Australians need to be able to trust their journalists and their politicians and have faith that what they are being told is the truth."
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz agreed that freedom of speech was vital.
"It is an issue of balance," Senator Abetz, a member of Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that is examining the issue, said. "As with whistleblowers, they deserve protection, but not all those who blow whistles do so with clean lips or motives."
New England Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce said whistleblowers were "fair game".
"My view is we shouldn't be prosecuting journalists," he said. "People who inform to journalist are fair game. It's the people who have leaked to them that have committed the crime. You cannot say everything is a national security issue, just like everything is not in the public interest."
While Coalition MPs have lined up behind Mr Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter, Labor has backed the #righttoknow campaign.
Ballarat's Labor MP Catherine King accused the government of using criminal law "to intimidate people who embarrass them, including journalists and whistleblowers".
"To see so many Australian newspapers and news outlets join together in this show of solidarity highlights the scale of the problem," she said.
Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKim said Labor's support for the #righttoknow campaign was welcome "particularly as they either introduced or supported all the laws that are currently curtailing rights and freedoms, including freedom of the press".
YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW: WHAT MPs AND SENATORS SAID
"The freedom to publish has always been subject to other considerations such as laws regarding national security, defamation and a defendant's right to a fair trial."
- Deputy PM Michael McCormack (Nationals, Riverina)
"I think this is the government's opportunity to protect freedom of the press in a way that's real and has teeth, demonstrating that we're not afraid of the public's right to know."
- Helen Haines (Independent, Indi)
"My view is we shouldn't be prosecuting journalists. People who inform to journalists are fair game. It's the people who have leaked to them that have committed the crime."
- Barnaby Joyce (Nationals, New England)
"Public interest journalism shouldn't be a crime. I'm all about holding the powerful to account. Australian's need to be able to trust their journalists and their politicians and have faith that what they are being told is the truth."
- Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie (Tas)
"It is an issue of balance. As with whistleblowers - they deserve protection, but not all those who blow whistles do so with clean lips or motives."
- Liberal Senator Eric Abetz (Tas)
"The strength of our democracy depends on a free press and honesty and transparency from those in power. "To see so many Australian newspapers and news outlets join together in this show of solidarity highlights the scale of the problem."
- Catherine King (ALP, Ballarat)
"Labor's support is welcome, particularly as they either introduced or supported all the laws that are currently curtailing rights and freedoms, including freedom of the press."
- Greens Senator Nick McKim (Tas)
"It is not a crime to be a journalist. It is not a crime to be a whistleblower. it is critical to the functioning of our democracy that we have good journalists, independent journalists, and the ability for people to raise flags when there is wrongdoing."
- Lisa Chesters (ALP, Bendigo)
"Press freedom is a major principle of democracy but it isn't an absolute. All Australians are subject to the law of the land."
- Mark Coulton (Nationals, Parkes)
"It is a big move for the Australian media to enter the political fray rather than only reporting on it. This indicates to me the seriousness of the situation and the degradation of free speech in this country."
- Alicia Payne (ALP, Canberra)
"If there are suggestions or evidence that reveals a need for further improvement of those laws, I am open to considering that."
- Bridget Archer (Liberal, Bass)
"We need a clear and unambiguous statement from the Minister that the three journalists won't be charged. He can do that immediately and he should."
- Stephen Jones (ALP, Whitlam)
"The day the campaign launched I put it up on my Facebook indicating my support. This is a very important campaign about ensuring that journalists are able to do their job without any threat to them performing the duties they need to do to keep the public informed."
- Sharon Bird (ALP, Cunningham)
"I've got an open mind on options for improvements, but I think it's important to wait for the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to report to the Parliament and then consider what changes to bring in. Improvements need to be thoughtful, sensible and workable for all Australians."
- Andrew Gee (Nationals, Calare)
"The Freedom of Information process is vital to the operation of transparent democracy. It's an important tool of the Opposition and the media to uncover what the Government doesn't want the public to know. Too many FOI requests are being knocked back by this Government, and requests are taking too long to process."
- Pat Conroy (ALP, Shortland)