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Friday, October 02, 2009

The Oz splashes out on whistleblower protection

Chris Merritt in The Australian gives whistleblower protection a solid run today, at least those aspects regarding disclosure to the media: comparisons between the Dreyfus proposals before the Federal Government and US schemes, courtesy of a visiting academic; and comparisons between Federal proposals and what Merritt refers to as a report to the Queensland Government - I think this is a submission by Dr AJ Brown on the Green Paper on Integrity and Accountability which is yet to appear on the published submissions list. The article includes comment about Section 70 of the Crimes Act and the need to review it, but, as in a long line of earlier reports in The Australian, contains no acknowledgment that the Australian Law Reform Commission has been examining Section 70 and other secrecy laws since August 2008, has published papers on the subject that identify the problems, and possible answers, and will report to the Government with final proposals by the end of this month.

In a third article Merritt makes some observations about Senator Ludwig's difficulties: responding to the Dreyfus Report by the end of the year, making the response consistent with the Government's open government commitment, and with any response to an application for a pardon by Allan Kessing:

".. the debate on Ludwig's (response) will coincide with the government's decision on whether Kessing's conviction for revealing airport security flaws should be wiped away by a pardon. Superficially, the Kessing affair might appear to be complicated by this retired Customs officer's assertion that he never leaked a report to The Australian outlining those security flaws. But that is a red herring. If Kessing did leak that report, he is hero. He deserves a pardon as a long-overdue "thank you" from a grateful nation. His actions placed the public interest ahead of his own and may well have saved lives. If Kessing was not responsible for that leak -- as he asserts -- a pardon is even more justified. Kessing's claim of innocence must be seen as far more credible because he now admits that he leaked that material to an employee of Labor's Anthony Albanese, who is now Transport Minister. Why would Kessing lie about his lack of involvement in the leak to The Australian while taking responsibility for a leak that, until now, had remained a closely guarded secret? It is also clear that the court that convicted Kessing -- and the appeal court -- were never given the full story. In the light of the disclosure about the Albanese link, the weight given to at least part of the circumstantial evidence that was used to convict Kessing must be reassesed."

Merritt reports Kessing is hard at work drafting an application for a pardon, and that he will need to persuade the government he can be deemed "morally and technically innocent of the offence" and show that exceptional circumstances have precluded him from going to the High Court. Kessing's principled stand and his cause deserve our full support.

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