*“Truth-tellers, the whistleblowers and the hacktivists are canaries in
the coal mine of democracy.” *Thomas Drake, a former senior
employee of the United States National Security Agency. **
** Crikey** **Bernard Keane**, Sept. 09, 2008
Special Minister of State John Faulkner today committed to legislation establishing a “preferred model” for whistle-blower protection in 2009, based on the outcome of a House of Representatives committee inquiry into ways to broaden and strengthen public interest disclosure.
A new collaborative study on whistleblowing by a Griffith University-based team of researchers found that more than 20% of whistleblowers were mistreated by their agency or employer after reporting wrongdoing. Most reported stress as a result of whistleblowing, with more than 40% reporting extreme stress.
Faulkner acknowledged that current Commonwealth whistleblower protections were inadequate, suggesting that they were too narrow in their protections and that there was a case for extending them beyond the confines of the Public Service Act – for example, to ministerial and electorate office staff employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act.
The most egregious examples of whistleblower punishments:
Sacked by the Australian Customs Service for leaking a report on airport security to The Australian.
Gillian Sneddon 2006
Gillian Sneddon paid the price for cooperating with the police during its investigation into her employer, Milton Orkopoulos, the Labor MP for Swansea and the former Aboriginal Affairs Minister in the Iemma Cabinet. For her dedication to duty she was sacked by the NSW Parliament. Sneddon feels she has been treated like a criminal though she had done the right thing. “I acted with integrity, I told the truth, I did what I had to do”.
**Serene Teffaha **
Serene Teffaha, a senior lawyer and senior tax technical specialist of 12 years standing, is suing the ATO in the Federal Magistrates Court under the Fair Work Act 2009, alleging eight adverse actions as a result of lodging a whistleblower complaint she was entitled to make under the Public Service Act . , Teffaha and the other complainants allege they have been the subject of bullying by tax office big wigs. Teffaha has been on stress leave since last year and has not returned to work.
Freya Newman 2014
Freya Newman, a 21-year-old communications student from the University of Technology, Sydney, faces up to two years’ jail after being charged over computer hacking that led to student records about a $60,000 scholarship granted to Tony Abbott’s daughter being leaked to the online magazine New Matilda.
There is no formal process by which the Whitehouse Institute of Design awards its Chairman’s Scholarships. That they are awarded at all is not advertised. Indeed, the website for the private college advises that it does not offer scholarships for its bachelor of design.
Tony Abbott’s daughter, Frances, had graduated before it was revealed she had received this scholarship for her $60,000 course. The chairman who recommended Frances, Les Taylor, is a friend of Abbott’s. Twice before, Abbott had made disclosures of gifts from Taylor. Although the Whitehouse Institute has since said the scholarship was awarded on merit, the process is entirely opaque. Speaking to Fairfax Media after the story was broken, Taylor said: ‘‘I probably did say to someone at Whitehouse, ‘Frances is a nice girl or something … good family, works hard, I reckon she’d do well.’ ’’
We know these spare facts because a part-time librarian at the institute, Freya Newman, accessed a database that contained details of the scholarship and shared that information with journalists. She has been pursued by police and has pleaded guilty to one count of accessing restricted data without authorisation. Next month, she may be sentenced to as many as two years in jail. There are no whistleblower protections available to her. At the time of the leak, Abbott said: *“I think that family should be off limits from politics. I think this is just a dirt-digging exercise, and families should be left out.” * The Saturday Paper, Saturday, October 25, 2014.
Tara McCarthy 2014
As the first female deputy commissioner of the State Emergency Services, Ms McCarthy was sacked for exposing potential misconduct by her boss, Murray Kear.
Bernard Collaery 2009 – 19
Timor accuses Australia of having spied on its then prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, and other members of Timor’s negotiating team, after the Australian Secret Intelligence Service allegedly directed aid contractors to insert listening devices into the walls of Timor’s cabinet buildings as they constructed them.
Through its agents both at the time (including then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer) and now (including Attorney General George Brandis), the Australian government denies those allegations. But Australia has also apparently sought to intimidate Timor-Leste into dropping them. In December last year ASIO raided the office of barrister Bernard Collaery, a former ACT attorney general who now represents “Witness K”, a former intelligence worker who blew the whistle on the bugging operation. (That raid, and the alleged espionage itself, is the subject of the ICJ proceedings. The ICJ ruled in March that Australia had to stop interfering in the relationship between Collaery and Timor.) Three weeks ago Australia applied to the PCA to have Witness K’s evidence struck out. Last week Australia issued a formal diplomatic warning to Timor that any further prosecution of its maritime boundaries case would risk its relationship with Australia, and asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate whether Witness K can be charged with a criminal offence.
Timor-Leste is one of the world’s poorest nations, and is reliant for much of its income on the huge Greater Sunrise oil and gas field below the Timor Gap. CMATS provides for the equal distribution of revenue between Australia and Timor-Leste, but Timor wants the treaty scrapped. The PCA has never invalidated a treaty on the grounds of fraud. If the espionage allegations are proven, international lawyers expect that’s precisely what will happen to CMATS. Russell Marks, PoliticsOZ
Witness K has decided to plea guilty to avoid future stress, however, Collaery said he stood by his legal advice to Witness K, labelling the accusation that he had unlawfully conspired with Witness K “contemptible”.
The two men were charged with disclosing information about the bugging of Timor-Leste government buildings in 2004, an operation that gave Australia the upper hand in talks to carve up resources in the Timor Sea.
Collaery said he was charged with “speaking to five journalists after my chambers were raided and my brief seized”, labelling the case “a likely turning point on … true freedom of expression against abuses of power”.
Collaery said the prosecution was “a very determined push to hide dirty political linen … under the guise of national security imperatives”.
He said an open court process would reveal the disclosures were “totally unrelated to national security concerns”.
David Hardaker #
Confessions of a whistleblower: ‘I had no option … lives were going to be lost’
**David Hardaker **was the one who was marched out of the [ACCC’s] head office in November 2018, never to return, his career up in flames. It was four days after internal emails potentially embarrassing to the ACCC had been published in a 60 Minutes investigation into Australia’s Takata air bag safety recall. ‘
It was the brutality of it, the suddenness of it,’ recalls Whistleblower #1. ‘It seems to have been done deliberately to humiliate me as a warning to others about what happens to whistleblowers.’”
“’I think as I say to my kids, sometimes you just have to be able to live with yourself and not just for yourself. I didn’t feel that at any point I was going to benefit from it personally. It was really a matter of my own conscience. My motivation was that this is wrong. It should be better and could easily be better.’” 13/12/19
Alex Mitchell writes:
In a just, fair and civilized society, Gillian Sneddon would be celebrated as a role model, NSW Premier Morris Iemma would be presenting her an award for outstanding public service, she’d be visiting Government House for a vice regal citation for integrity from the Governor, Professor Marie Bashir, and state MPs would be rearranging their schedules to pass a vote of appreciation from both house of the parliament.
Instead, she’s been given the sack. Her health is shot to pieces and she remains frightened and disillusioned.
Sneddon is paying the price for cooperating with the police during its investigation into her employer, Milton Orkopoulos, the Labor MP for Swansea and the former Aboriginal Affairs Minister in the Iemma Cabinet.
Orkopoulos’s sentencing hearing began in the Newcastle District Court today after he was found guilty last week on 28 charges, including eight counts of having homos-xual intercourse with a minor, 13 counts of supplying cannabis, four counts of supplying heroin, and three counts of indecent assault on a minor.
Orkopoulos’s pedophile conviction represents a complete vindication of Sneddon. She did the right thing by assisting the police in their inquiry into a heinous crime by a person in high public office who committed s-x crimes against teenagers and rewarded them with illegal drugs.
She had served as electorate officer on the left-wing MP’s staff from the start of his political career in March 1999 right up to his Cabinet appointment in August 2005 and beyond.
When detectives visited the office to investigate pedophile allegations in September 2006, she was dismayed because Orkopoulos had told her he had dealt with the accusations in 2005 by going to the police.
She agreed to assist the task force with their inquiry but soon found that her position in his office was untenable. She contacted her employer, the NSW Parliament, to reveal that a covert police operation was underway against her boss and that she needed alternative employment or help.
What happened next was extraordinary. The clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Russell Grove, held a meeting with human resources manager Elaine Schofield at which the pedophile allegations against Orkopoulos relayed by Sneddon were discussed.
The upshot was that a locksmith was ordered to change the locks on Orkopoulos’s electorate office. Sneddon found herself locked out.
It is inconceivable that the then Speaker John Aquilina wasn’t informed of the allegations as well as the steps taken by the parliament to protect Orkopoulos. Grove wouldn’t have acted on his own.
Subsequently, Sneddon was granted stress leave and she began to receive worker’s compensation.
On the day she testified against Orkopoulos at his trial, February 22, 2008, she received a letter signed by Grove stating that the new Speaker, pro-Labor Independent Richard Torbay, was terminating her employment. It was also her birthday.
Torbay later admitted the timing was “unfortunate” but it had inadvertently sent a loud and clear message around the state’s electorate offices and the public service generally: Don’t be a whistleblower.
Sneddon told 2GB’s Ray Hadley this week that she had been treated like a criminal though she had done the right thing. “I acted with integrity, I told the truth, I did what I had to do,” she said.
She said that at one stage of her ordeal “I was so frightened I thought I was going to be killed.” Later, her morale slumped so low, she felt like dying.
After news broke of her sacking, there was a knee-jerk reaction and Sneddon was offered a stay-on job by parliament. “How can I take it?” she asked. “How can I ever trust them again?”
She now believes that there should be an official investigation into how parliament handled the Orkopoulos matter, to establish who knew what and when.
She is supported by Murrumbidgee Nationals MP, Adrian Piccoli, shadow leader of the house, who has been harassing Iemma with questions in the house about when he first knew of Orkopoulos’s crimes. Iemma’s consistent answer is that he found out the day that the MP was arrested – November 8, 2006 - and knew nothing whatsoever before that date.
Save the Children
There is little to protect the staff of Save the Children, either, whom immigration minister Scott Morrison has referred to the federal police over leaks regarding the treatment of asylum seekers in offshore camps. The Saturday Paper, Saturday, October, 25^(th), 2014.
The Whistleblower protection provisions have been left collecting dust on a shelf somewhere in the bowels of Parliament.