“I mean how secret can they be?” he said of the documents.
“It’s 10 years ago, about what people shot someone in Afghanistan, what the minister may have said. I mean, how are our enemies – the Russians, the Chinese – how is that going to be used against us? The government should be made to say why can’t you reclassify these things, what is truly secret about it?”
Mr McBride said he had to agree to the orders to move the case forward.
“Now we can move forward I’m going to apply to the court or at least get maybe the press to put pressure on the government and say why don’t you reclassify the documents, as many as you can and that’s about 90 per cent, and let’s have an open court so Australia can see what’s going on.”
During the directions hearing, counsel for the Attorney-General, Andrew Berger, said the national broadcaster had recently expressed concern about the proposed consent orders, and Channel 10, Channel 9 and The Canberra Times had also expressed an interest.
As a result, the consent orders include an order that will allow the ABC or any media organisation to make an application to the court should they wish to intervene to vary the orders.
A barrister who appeared for the ABC, Matthew Lewis, said the broadcaster’s concerns were around four of the orders and focused on preserving its right to appear and be heard on matters including closing the court, pseudonym orders and non-publication orders.
Asked outside court why people should take an interest in his case, Mr McBride said: “If we don’t stop this trajectory now, in five, 10 years’ time, this will be an absolute police state, where there’s no difference between a spy and a journalist.”
Mr McBride continues to represent himself. He said lawyers he had spoken to were focused on his avoiding jail.
“They don’t understand the point is not to avoid jail, the point is to make Australia a better place, and if I have to go to jail to do that, I’m happy to. There’s no greater honour [than] to go to jail or sacrifice in order to make your country better.”
He is charged with theft of Commonwealth property, three counts of breaching the Defence Act, and the unauthorised disclosure of information. He has admitted releasing the documents to journalists but has pleaded not guilty and will defend the charge on legal grounds.
The trial is not expected to be listed until next year. The case is next listed before the registrar for directions on Thursday.
Alexandra Back is a reporter with The Canberra Times