Jacqui Lambie has called for an independent media regulator to put the brakes on what she sees as media abuse of its power and invasions of privacy.
Senator Lambie said journalists had tried to access the medical records from her fight with the Department of Veterans' Affairs under freedom of information, and "snooped around" the personal lives of her staff.
"Journalists have taken it upon themselves to determine that whoever I employ becomes a matter of public interest, but that's wrong," she said, writing in Australian Community Media publications. "The sex life of the Prime Minister might be interesting to some people (and I'm sorry to hear it), but that doesn't make it a matter of public interest."
Senator Lambie, whose comments come amid the media's Right to Know campaign against government secrecy, said she supported stronger whistleblower laws and freedom of information laws, and she supported public interest journalism.
But the media was not qualified to determine what was in the public interest and would always favour more disclosure over less, given its commercial interests. A check was needed on media power, she said, suggesting an independent regulator to enforce a code of conduct with the power to levy fines and penalties.
Her idea echoes a recommendation from the 2012 Finkelstein inquiry for a News Media Council.
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Ray Finkelstein's recommendation, which came in the wake of the News of the World phone hacking scandal in Britain, was for a council that would set standards, handle complaints and make binding decisions. It would also be government funded.
The idea attracted support outside the media but not within, with the then chief of News Ltd, Kim Williams, saying the "spectre of a government-funded overseer" could not be justified.
Malcolm Turnbull, then communications spokesman for the Liberals in Opposition, also dismissed the idea, saying the Coalition believed in a free press.
Associate professor in journalism at Monash University Johan Lidberg said he sympathised with Senator Lambie's call but what she was suggesting was "way too heavy handed and would go beyond what would be reasonable". Any new body should include an element of self-regulation to ensure independence.
Prof Lidberg said the newspaper companies' response to the Finkelstein recommendation had been very disappointing. Instead of rejecting it out of hand they should have treated it as a chance to build trust, he said.
Senior research fellow in journalism at the University of Melbourne Denis Muller said Senator Lambie was right in principle that the media should be accountable for how they use their power, with the current system of accountability "fragmented, weak and virtually invisible to the public".
But achieving that had proved difficult, with the Finkelstein inquiry "howled down by the media companies as akin to totalitarianism", the Convergence Review's suggestion of a last-resort statutory authority also going nowhere, and nothing so far on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's recommendation this year for a new system of regulation covering all publishers and content providers.
But Senator Lambie's idea should only be considered in the context of reform to laws on national security and government secrecy, whistleblowers, freedom of information and defamation. And he said freedom of the press should also be prioritised in law.