Peter Greste

Mr CLARE (Blaxland) : John Curtin was once asked why he held so many press conferences. Why, despite his waning health at the height of World War II, did he feel the need to feed the chooks as regularly as he did, when all the journalists did was ask him unwelcome questions? Curtin replied, because the press is the voice of democracy. He was right. When that voice is threatened, here or around the world, we have to do more than just talk about freedom of the press—we have to act to defend it. That brings me to the case of Peter Greste.

Peter is an award-winning Australian journalist who right now is sitting in a three-metre by four-metre cell in Cairo, Egypt. He spends 23 hours a day in the cell. He has been there for three months, charged with allegedly spreading false news. Peter and his two Al Jazeera colleagues have not been presented with a single piece of evidence to justify the charges. Being an international journalist is often a dangerous job. More than 2,000 journalists and media staff have been killed in the last 20 years. They face these risks willingly, but they should not also have to fear being arrested for just doing the job. Being a journalist is not a crime. I take this opportunity to urge the Prime Minister and the government to do everything they can to help secure Peter’s immediate release.