Prime Minister Scott Morrison has written to Labor with plans for a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of law enforcement and intelligence powers on press freedom.
The proposed inquiry will examine any changes to national security laws "to better balance the need for press freedom with the need for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to investigate serious offending and obtain intelligence on security threats".
And the planned inquiry, to be conducted by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, will focus specifically on the rules for accessing journalists' electronic data and whether search warrants targeting journalists should be able to be contested by media organisations.
Search warrants of the kind used to raid the home of News Corp reporter Annika Smethurst and the ABC's national headquarters last month are now issued by a judicial officer on the advice of police without any media representative present.
Is a free press a right Australians can continue to rely on under the Morrison government?Labor Senator Kristina Keneally
Labor also announced its own move to establish a parliamentary inquiry into press freedom on Tuesday evening.
It would examine whistleblower protections, the culture of the federal government, the independence of the Australian Federal Police in investigating politically sensitive matters and, like the government's proposed inquiry, the process for issuing search warrants on media organisations.
Labor's home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said her party wanted to ensure Parliament was achieving a proper balance between the public's right to know, freedom of the press and national security.
"The events of the past month have raised the question - is a free press a right Australians can continue to rely on under the Morrison government?" Senator Keneally said.
Media chiefs issued an urgent call for reform last week after the Australian Federal Police raids in early June.
Among the priorities announced by the bosses of the ABC, Nine and News Corp at the National Press Club were changes to national defamation laws, which ABC managing director David Anderson said "only protect the rich and powerful".
Nine CEO Hugh Marks said those laws heavily favour plaintiffs, making it hard for media organisations to defend hard-hitting public interest journalism.
"Current defamation laws mean a journalist gets into the ring with the unscrupulous, the dishonest and the corrupt with two hands tied behind his or her back," Mr Marks said.
But no review of the defamation laws was included in the proposed terms of reference unveiled by Labor or the government, though a NSW-led review is under way at a state level.
Speaking at the National Press Club event, News Corp chairman Michael Miller said governments did not need to wait to enact legislation to protect journalists.
The government's proposed inquiry will be discussed by Mr Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese at a meeting on Wednesday. Labor's proposed inquiry will be considered on Thursday.
The ABC, News Corp and Nine declined to comment.
- SMH/The Age