Search This Blog

Friday, March 04, 2011

Kessing whistleblower conviction unsound as well as unjust

Good on Chris Merritt and The Australian for continuing to draw attention to developments concerning Allan Kessing and his conviction for a breach of section 70 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, and again pushing the case for justice for him in these articles today. Withheld information that has now come to light casts fresh doubt on the conviction, following Kessing's admission after the trial that he leaked to a member of staff of Anthony Albanese, but not, as charged, to journalists at The Australian.

Customs letter raises questions
Allan Kessing in 'wrongful conviction'
Cracks in Kessing case illustrate why secrecy is insidious

Kessing a hero
Professor (Paul) Wilson (of Bond University) said it was clear that Mr Kessing had leaked the report "but not to The Oz". "Even assuming that he did leak to The Oz, as well as Albanese, Kessing in my view is a hero -- his motives were entirely in the public interest, may well have led to changes in airport security that saved lives and exposed a potential criminal culture among some segments of personnel working at airports. "His financial devastation for acting in the public interest and his present legal position is an appalling indictment on a government that says it respects human rights and justice," Professor Wilson said.
Merritt's wrap
So it looks like this man is simultaneously a victim of injustice and a real whistleblower who risked his liberty because it was the right thing to do. And that applies even though it meant breaching the self-serving secrecy laws that generations of federal politicians have used to hide maladministration. If anyone needs convincing about the insidious impact on the justice system of this fixation with secrecy, look no further than this case. It shows that federal law enforcement agencies appear to have concluded that government secrecy laws -- unlike laws against real crime -- can safely be applied selectively. Back in 2005 when the leak at the heart of this affair embarrassed the government of John Howard, there was almost no limit to the resources the Australian Federal Police devoted to finding someone to blame. Kessing, who at that stage had retired, was followed through the streets of Sydney and subjected to the sort of scrutiny that even career criminals rarely receive. But when he admits that he broke the same secrecy law by leaking to Albanese's staffer, the law enforcement agencies behave as if nothing has happened. Could it possibly be that the complexion of the government in Canberra is a relevant factor in the enforcement of the Commonwealth Crimes Act? This selective application of secrecy laws proves what many have long known: these laws are too easy to abuse and desperately need reform.
"Desperately need reform," yes. Merritt doesn't mention that the ALRC report on reform of secrecy laws including the draconian s 70 has been with the Attorney General for 14 months, and was tabled in Parliament a year ago. Not a word from the government in response since.

No comments:

Post a comment