Jun 272007

Both the Kessing and Harvey/McManus cases show the personal risks of revealing controversial or secret information to the public……. The Law Report – Whistleblowers

Regardless, or some might say, even in spite of, the public’s interest.

This morning’s Law Report on Radio National made for sober listening, and highlights yet again the blithely ignorant funk we all wander about our world within. Evidence News Limited journalists Michael McManus and Gerard Harvey, sentenced yesterday and now have a criminal record, one which could severely limit their future work. Each was also fined $7,000.

It’s not the money at issue here, although I know some might disagree, especially those who cop the blister on their wallets in these cases. It’s about the establishment effectively acting against the public interest by castigating those who act as whistleblowers out of a sense of what’s right & wrong, and what offends their ethical sensibilities.

I was particularly offended by these words from the nation’s first law officer, Phillip Ruddock:

I don’t think it’s in the public interest for national security information to necessarily be laid bare at the judgment of a particular public servant. And let me make it very clear, I think budget issues are similar matters, where people can make profits out of disclosing information before the public generally might be aware of it. And so you have to look at those issues in terms of timing. So let me just make that point, that there are a whole lot of areas where in our view, the courts needed a discretion to determine whether or not it was appropriate. Now when you come to an individual who has charge of that information, there are separate procedures that are put in place for people who are concerned about the sort of matter you raised. Whether something is being acted upon; whether or not it is shielding somebody from accountability arrangements. But the proper course to adopt is for the person who becomes aware of such matters, to take them to his superiors, and if those superiors are believed to be people who are malfeasant, in other words, that are part of the problem, then the obligation is to take it to the head of the public service.

As always, Ruddock says a lot which means next to nothing and fails to address the issues at hand. Neither McManus, Harvey or Allan Kessing broached issues of so-called ’national security’. Neither did any of them sneak a peek at Peter Costello’s budget speech notes and blab. In Allan Kessing’s case, some thirty months transpired between his initial reviews on security breaches at Sydney Airport being submitted to the establishment, and the ultimate release of those reports by The Australian. As The Law Report transcript details, Allan Kessing denies leaking anything and the Australian Federal Police didn’t allege that he did. Yet he’s been found guilty of doing exactly that, just the same.

Messrs Harvey and McManus now also have criminal records, yet legislation is now, or shortly about to be, in place to protect the sanctity of a journalists sources. Clearly, a need was seen, yet two men acting in terms of the profession’s ethics – ethics which had long been understood by the public to have been sacrosanct – now have records. The system is obviously arse-about-face and doesn’t pay a whole lot of heed to what the public really knows. Only what it wants the public to think it knows, apparently.

And on the subject of what you – the public – think you know on these issues, I’d like very much to announce that all things being equal, Mr Allan Kessing will shortly be in a position to tell his own story, in his own manner, from this domain. An emailed ’thank you for your interest’ from Mr Kessing in response to this post from last week has resulted in a series of exchanges which should see Mr Kessing posting to his own blog under Waddayano within a week. Neither of us wants to rush into anything, least of all yours truly, but I’m only too happy to be providing domain space for someone wronged by the system to at least tell us his side of the story. It’s clear that the media vultures weren’t interested until the corpse was dragged out into the sunlight for a final flogging. Two years after it was initially hung, drawn & quartered.

Stay tuned, OzSphere. Further news as it comes to hand.