Lambie wants new press watchdog

AUSTRALIA needs an independent media regulator with the power to impose penalties on media outlets for irresponsible reporting, Senator Jacqui Lambie says.

In an opinion piece published in Nine newspapers tody, Senator Lambie said she supported freedom of speech - but there should be greater limits to protect privacy.


Senator Jacqui Lambie speaking at Parliament House in Canberra.
Senator Jacqui Lambie speaking at Parliament House in Canberra.


She pointed to media attempts to obtain her medical records and information about her staff members as examples of the media abusing its power.

"Journalists aren't especially qualified to determine what is and is not in the public interest," she wrote. "It's a blurry area at the best of times."

"Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of a journalist's ire.

"They have a huge megaphone and platform that no regular Joe Bloggs is able to counter. "You're always going to lose that fight. And the power that gives to a journalist can and has been used for remarkable good."

The call comes in the middle of a campaign by the nation's media outlets for greater press freedom under the banner "Your Right to Know".

Senator Lambie said good journalism had lead to several Royal Commissions in Australia in recent years but there was a need to put limits on what she said was unfettered media power.

She proposed a new regulator with the power to impose fines and "other penalties" on media outlets to replace bodies like the Australian Press Council.

"A regulator, independent of press, but able to work on their behalf with the government," she wrote.

"An independent regulator could enforce an industry-wide code of conduct and be independent of government to avoid interference for political benefit.

"They could levy fines and other penalties.

"They could scrutinise legislation and suggest new ways through to improve on the regulations around public interest journalism.

"They could promote good journalism through training and accreditation."