A group of high-profile whistleblowers has written an open letter to the Federal Government as one of their own prepares to face trial over leaking details of alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.
Former army lawyer David McBride is due to face the Supreme Court in Canberra from Monday on five charges, including disclosing information in breach of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) and unlawfully providing classified information under the Defences Act 1903 (Cth).
In a letter to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, Peter Fox (Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse), Sharon Kelsey (Logan City Council), Jeff Morris (Banking Royal Commission), Kent Quinlan (SHELL Energy Operations), Alysha Rose (Ashley Youth Detention Centre) and Troy Stolz (gambling industry) said they were whistleblowers who had “all paid the price for truth telling in this country”.
The six said since taking office in May 2022, Mr Dreyfus had “done little except make further promises and offer empty platitudes” in relation to whistleblower protections.
“Despite knowing that the current system is not fit for purpose, you have not progressed any meaningful protection and instead, exposed whistleblowers to legal fees in the millions of dollars,” they said.
“Three of the undersigned have run up or are running up seven-figure legal bills defending the truth and the victimisation of them because they were a whistleblower, two have lost their homes as a result with a third likely to in the future.”
They decried Mr Dreyfus’s decision to continue the prosecutions of Mr McBride and Richard Boyle, who exposed serious unethical conduct in the Australian Taxation Office, saying it took “retaliation against whistleblowers to a whole new level”.
“Both McBride and Boyle tried to act internally before going public. Both exposed serious failures within government that would not have been addressed but for their action,” they said.
“While both McBride and Boyle have been vindicated by independent inquiries, it is now your job to vindicate them personally to ensure they do not go to jail for their courageous actions.
“We urge you to recognise that the prosecutions of David McBride and Richard Boyle are not in the public interest, and exercise the power that you have been given as the highest law officer of the country to put an end to their prosecutions.”
Mr Boyle is due to face trial in the Supreme Court in Adelaide next year on charges under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (Cth).
In July last year, Mr Dreyfus elected to exercise his power under the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth) to discontinue the prosecution of whistleblower lawyer and former ACT Attorney-General Bernard Collaery.
Mr Collaery had been charged under the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (Cth) after he helped expose Australia’s bugging of Timor-Leste during commercial negotiations over access to resources in the Timor Sea.
The Attorney-General’s office has yet to comment on the open letter.