Parliament votes to continue prosecution of whistleblowers.
Written by: Nick G. on 8 September 2023
On September 6, independent MP Andrew Wilkie sought leave to move a motion calling on Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus to drop the prosecution of whistleblowers David McBride and Richard Boyle.
The text of his motion read:
That the House:
(1) notes that:
(a) Mr David McBride, a former military lawyer, is facing five charges relating to the disclosure of information that is undeniably in the public interest, including credible evidence of war crimes committed by Australian Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan;
(b) Mr McBride faces court on 13 November 2023, and will be the first person on trial in relation to alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan and he faces the very real prospect of spending years in prison, simply for telling the truth, because of this Australian Government prosecution; and
(c) Mr Richard Boyle, a former Australian Tax Office official, is also facing the prospect of life in prison within the year, for revealing information about serious improper conduct within the Australian Taxation Office, which was also undoubtedly in the public interest; and
(2) calls on the Government to immediately intervene pursuant to the Judiciary Act 1903 and discontinue the politically motivated prosecutions of Mr McBride and Mr Boyle.
The leave was not granted.
Wilkie then sought to suspend the standing and sessional orders that had been used to deny the leave he had sought. His motion to do so was seconded by another independent MP, the Member for North Sydney Kylea Tink.
In seconding Wilkie’s motion, Tink said “Every day the government lets the prosecution of these two men continue is another day it's having a chilling effect on anyone who is considering revealing unlawful and other wrongful conduct inside the Australian government because these prosecutions send a very clear message: to blow the whistle is to bring the full force of the law down on your own head and the cost of courage is too high.”
Dreyfus was reminded that he had intervened shortly after the election to drop the prosecution of whistleblower Bernard Collaery over his involvement in disclosures of Australia’s bugging of the East Timorese government during negotiations over oil and gas extraction in the Timor Sea.
This followed a massive people’s campaign of support for Collaery.
Speaking against Wilkie’s motion, Dreyfus refused to address the key issues of concern, denied that the “extraordinary circumstances” of Collaery’s case applied to McBride’s and Boyle’s, and hid behind the fact that both were the subject of criminal proceedings before the courts to justify his refusal to comment further on their cases.
If ever proof were needed that so-called “Labor values” are nothing more than the merest fig-leaf trying to hide Labor’s essential service to the ruling class, this was it.
The heads of the armed forces, of government instrumentalities and private monopoly corporations want to see McBride and Boyle imprisoned. They want the courts to set an example to anyone else contemplating blowing the whistle on injustice, corruption, dishonesty and criminality that they will not be protected, but instead, prosecuted and jailed.
On the one hand, Dreyfus has committed the government to continue its prosecution of McBride and Boyle, whilst on the other, admitting that the whistleblower legislation is faulty, and that a second review of the legislation is contemplated. He said, “…the government intends to commence a second stage of reforms, which will include public consultation on, firstly, broader reforms to the Public Interest Disclosure Act to provide effective and accessible protections to public sector whistleblowers.”
His was a contemptable performance in the service of those who seek to crush whistleblowers.
After Dreyfus spoke, there was only time for two more independent MPs, Allegra Spender and Zoe Daniel, both of whom supported Wilkie’s motion.
When time for debate expired, the vote was put.
There were 15 “Ayes” and 83 “Noes”.
The Lib-Labs for the big end of town had crushed the independent voice of the people and, by refusing to protect the whistleblowers, left them both facing years in jail.
See also: Speech by IPAN member Derek Burke at a rally in support of Richard Boyle here.
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