Putting it into perspective 

Paul Pollard writes: Re. “ICAC’s ‘disgusting’ ruling against Labor: Obeids, Macdonald face charges” (yesterday). In your July story on the recent ICAC report on mining leases, you repeat the statement by counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson SC, early in the inquiry, that it would reveal “corruption on a scale probably unexceeded since the days of the Rum Corps”. This silly statement shows remarkable ignorance of the seriousness of corrupt state government in much more recent times than the Rum Corps. It is now undisputed that the NSW premier Bob Askin was the recipient of funds from organised crime in NSW for years. Similarly, in Queensland the Police Commissioner Terry Lewis, appointed by Joh Bjelke-Petersen, was on the take from organised crime for years, and went to jail for that (though he continues to protest his innocence), while a number of ministers in the Bjelke- Petersen government were sent to jail for corruption. Having a premier and police commissioners as a part of organised crime for years rather puts the corrupt granting of a coal mining lease by a minister into perspective.

Protection for whistleblowers

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus writes: Re. “You better be careful blowing the whistle — new laws have holes” (Tuesday). It is unquestionable that Commonwealth public-sector whistleblowers will have greater protection under the government’s Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 than prior to the commencement of the act.

The act strikes the right balance to achieve a comprehensive and effective framework to ensure that disclosures of wrongdoing are properly investigated and dealt with, and to ensure protection for public officials who make public interest disclosures

To clarify some inaccuracies and omissions from Brendan Jones’ article.

  • Jones accepts that under the ct reprisals against whistleblowers are an offence punishable by up to two years imprisonment. But offences also apply to protect the identify of whistleblowers and, in addition to the criminal sanctions which may be imposed for “terrorising” a whistleblower, he or she can apply under the act to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court for a civil remedy, or alternatively seek recourse under the Fair Work Act.
  • A whistleblower who seeks redress through the courts will not be liable for the costs of the agency or department unless the proceedings are vexatious, without reasonable cause or unreasonably cause the other party to incur costs. However, a court can still order that the agency or department pay the costs of the whistleblower, if it is unsuccessful in defending its claim.
  • The government cannot “sit” on a disclosure indefinitely. There are time limits under the act for steps to be taken to handle a disclosure, and this includes when an investigation into a disclosure must be completed. One of the criteria for external disclosure, including to the media, is if the investigation has not taken place within the statutory time limit.
  • One of the grounds that allows an external disclosure is for a whistleblower to believe on reasonable grounds that an investigation was inadequate.
  • The Ombudsman has significant oversight powers under the public interest disclosure scheme and is required to report annually on disclosures received during the year and any complaints made about the handling of those disclosures.

(Read Mark Dreyfus’ full statement to Crikey here).

Andrew Partos writes: We need whistleblowers,  otherwise we would never know the truth.

Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden should jointly be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Nobel Prize Committee should demand that President Barack Obama shall return his Peace Prize, as he totally failed the universal expectation to promote peace instead of wars.

Rock-and-roller cola wars

Ian Franklin writes: Re. “Video of the day” (yesterday). Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I see this as nothing more than an opportunity to increase profit margins. In terms of dollars per litre, you typically pay much, much more for Coke in smaller packages.

With the “cola wars” (predominately 24 / 30 can packs or those huge two-litre bottles that don’t fit anywhere in your fridge), it is a way to claw back money from the heavy discounting that become front-page “leading specials” for the major supermarket chains each week.

Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors.