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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Big day in Canberra for whistleblower protection as well

Apart from all that drama at the highest level, yesterday saw the Senate pass the Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2013 without amendment, despite moves by The Greens and Senator Xenophon to improve the bill passed by the House. 

One of those amendments would have opened the way to address in a small way the injustice done to Allan Kessing. In speaking to the amendment Senator Milne drew attention to the continuing silence from Minister Albanese soon to be Deputy Prime Minister in the second Rudd era on the contact between his office and Kessing before material found its way into The Australian:
Our amendment is for the minister to have broad, non-compellable power to make payments to those who expose wrongdoing. Jurisdictions providing whistleblowers with a cut of any recouped public money has been very successful as both an integrity and a public review measure. This clause would simply allow an act of grace payment in these circumstances or where there is a public interest in doing so.
The example I want to give here is following home affairs minister Jason Clare's refusal to grant a pardon to Allan Kessing. The Special Minister of State could make a payment in recognition of his contribution to public safety and his $70,000 of legal expenses. I still believe a major injustice was done to Allan Kessing, who blew the whistle on security concerns at Sydney airport. It cost him $70,000 in legal fees and he has a criminal conviction. He applied for a pardon for that criminal conviction because it was shown that his issues were not vexatious. What he stood up and said occurred was actually shown to be so.
I have said in the Senate before and I say again today: there should be an explanation from Minister Anthony Albanese, but it has not eventuated. Mr Kessing has always maintained that he did not publicly release the material that resulted in his criminal conviction. He went to his local member for Grayndler with that information, then somehow it made it into the Australian. The ALP used Mr Kessing in their 2007 election campaign to hammer the Howard government's treatment of him. Then they tossed him away, effectively, after he served their purpose and refused him a pardon. I find that disgraceful. To this day I say that Allan Kessing ought to be given a pardon. The amendment the Greens are putting forward would allow not just for him to receive a payment but for the minister to have an act of grace capacity to make payment to anyone who does blow the whistle in the future and is subsequently financially disadvantaged.
As noted in the debate, the bill has shortcomings but six years on from a Labor commitment to act, it has done so, thanks in large part to Attorney General Dreyfus. Back then addressing the Kessing injustice was a priority as well, but alas...

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