Peter Dutton has stressed there is nothing new about the idea that a journalist can go to jail for publishing top secret government documents, saying the suggestion there should be no penalty goes against "tradition".
Asked whether he would be comfortable if that happened, the Home Affairs minister suggested the priority was the leaking of highly classified documents.
"I'm concerned that if people are leaking top-secret documents that that can affect our national security," he told Nine's Today program on Friday.
The Australian Federal Police hasn't ruled out laying charges following back-to-back raids this week involving two media outlets.
Federal police are investigating not only the leaking of documents by Commonwealth officers but also the publication of the materials following referrals from - according to Mr Dutton - the Defence Department secretary and the director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate.
Search warrants were executed on the Canberra home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and the Sydney headquarters of the ABC.
The ABC was raided over 2017 stories on allegations Australian soldiers may have carried out unlawful killings in Afghanistan, based on leaked Defence papers.
Ms Smethurst's home was raided over the 2018 publication of a leaked plan to allow the ASD to spy on Australians.
Mr Dutton, the minister responsible for the AFP, says the laws that can put journalists behind bars for publishing stories with top secret information date back many years.
"That there should be no penalty or consequence for that would go against tradition in our country that spans back many, many decades and the same case in other democracies around the world," he said.
"There are good reasons and long-standing reasons why a country like us or New Zealand would classify documents in such a way."
But he insisted there were legal protections for whistleblowers and that the government defended media rights.
"We do have protections enshrined in law and we value a very healthy fourth estate. There's no question of that."
Labor leader Anthony Albanese disagreed, accusing Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his team of not acknowledging there is a "disturbing" issue at play when journalists faced the risk of being jailed.
"The government, the prime minister and the minister, can't continue to say it's nothing to do with them," he told reporters in Sydney.
"The job of government is to set the framework within (which) our democracy operates."
He's called for a "mature debate" about what role the media has in Australian society and its capacity to scrutinise the government.
Mr Morrison has said he's open to reviewing the legislation underpinning the searches.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who chairs the parliament's joint committee on law enforcement, wants the AFP's acting commissioner Neil Gaughan to be called before the committee to explain the raids.
But he doesn't want to prejudge police reasoning.
"There is a need for balance. No one likes to see journalists' homes being raided but the security people that we have, and the AFP, have certain responsibilities as well," he told The Guardian.
Labor is considering backing a Senate inquiry into the raids proposed by the Greens.
The AFP has left the door open to carrying out further raids as part of its investigations.
Australian Associated Press