Newsletter of Whistleblowers Australia Inc
Box U129 University of Wollongong, Wollongong NSW 2500
Note: The text of most but not all items in the August 1996 issue
is included here. The order is not the same and some typographical
errors have been rectified.
This document is located on
Suppression of dissent website
in the section on
in the subsection on
In this issue
From Lesley Pinson, National Director
Organisational support for whistleblowers, by
WBA National Committee Meeting, 28 June
ICAC survey: credibility, removal of bias, etc.,
by Richard Blake
New South Wales News, by Richard Blake
Stopping waste in a foreign aid organisation: a
whistle blown successfully, by Vin Kane
An update on the review of the NSW Protected
Disclosures Act 1994, by Cynthia Kardell
Whistleblowing: a celebration
Unions and the whistleblower, by Greg
Report from Jean Lennane, Vice-President
FROM LESLEY PINSON, NATIONAL DIRECTOR
The second national conference of the WBA held in Melbourne on 29
and 30 June was generally held to be a success by all who attended.
Enormous time and effort was put in by those who were involved in
making this conference happen and congratulations and thanks are
especially due to the Victorian Branch and in particular Kim Sawyer
for their sterling efforts which ensured that things went smoothly on
the day. Thanks also to those who spoke, sent in papers and arranged
sessions and workgroups. I hope that there will be more conferences
in the future. This will of course depend on how much energy people
have to arrange them. Some of us are still recovering from this one
and waiting to get our voices back!
We would appreciate any comments and feedback from those who attended
for future reference.
The Western Australian Commission on Government (COG) has
completed some of the first of a series of reports it is producing in
response to the recommendations of the WA Inc. Royal Commission.
These reports are not only of critical importance for debates about
governmental reform in WA, but raise issues of broad concern to
anyone interested in parliamentary government in Australia. Report
No. 2 part 1 covers whistleblower protection and functions of the
Official Corruption Commission. This can be obtained from Dymocks 705
Hay St. Mall, Perth, WA 6000 for $25 plus $6 postage.
For general interest, Report No. 1 deals with secrecy laws, cabinet
secrecy, parliamentary privilege, the electoral systems for the
Legislative Council, financial administration and powers of the
Auditor General. Report No. 2 part 2 deals with political donations,
electoral expenditure, parliament's scrutiny of the public sector,
legislation committees in parliament and an independent archives
authority. Report No. 3 covers conduct standards, caretaker
governments, government commercial activity, government advertising
and travel, financial independence of Parliament and the Ombudsman's
The WA COG can be contacted on Free Call 1800 622 054.
Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade - Inquiry (?) into
In May, articles in the Sun Herald by Fia Cumming and Brian Toohey
exposed allegations of extensive paedophile activity in the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Allegations have also
included claims that aid money has been used to buy orphans for sex.
The behaviour of diplomats has embarrassed Australia's reputation
internationally. Alexander Downer promptly announced that a full
judicial inquiry would be held and urged whistleblowers to come
forward with evidence. However, at the same time, he has refused to
take any action in relation to the DFAT suspending Alastair Gaisford,
a DFAT employee who has been charged by the DFAT for making malicious
allegations about paedophiles and with being 'disloyal' to the
Downer subsequently announced that the inquiry would be held behind
closed doors and would be conducted by an ex senior public servant.
This was branded by the Opposition as powerless and a whitewash.
There would be no protection for whistleblowers and this would be
similar to the ICAC's two year inquiry into paedophiles in NSW which
failed to produce any real evidence.
At the end of June, at the request of the DFAT, Federal Police
Officers conducted a raid on Mr Gaisford's house removing documents
which the DFAT may try to use to charge Mr Gaisford with theft. This
behaviour leaves little doubt about the lengths the DFAT is prepared
to go to frighten off anyone who has evidence of the alleged
paedophile activities engaged in by its present or former officers
and is most likely to have deterred those who have such information
from making submission's to the "secret inquiry". What has the DFAT
Mr Downer's attitude and lack of any action in response to the DFAT's
treatment of Mr Gaisford has hardly been likely to encourage anyone
with knowledge about paedophiles or misuse of public expenditure to
come forward with that information.
Interestingly the AFP Officer in charge of the raid and the person
appointed to assist the "secret" inquiry are one and the same. Let us
hope that he will be even handed and will raid the residences of
those against whom allegations of paedophile activity are hopefully
being inquired into or we will really have to wonder exactly what it
is that is being investigated and whether this inquiry is really
independent. Still, as it is unlikely that the media would be allowed
to report on any such raids even if they were to be carried out, we
will probably never know.
At the National Conference in July, a unanimous resolution was passed
deploring the conduct of the DFAT and the AFP in relation to this
raid and the treatment of Mr Gaisford. Prime Minister Howard has been
advised of this resolution in a letter in which the WBA has
reiterated a request that Federal Whistleblowing legislation is
implemented in accordance with the Coalition's election promises.
Telstra - avoidance of Freedom of Information laws
The Commonwealth Ombudsman recently issued a scathing report about
Telstra's attitude to its customers and of its administration of the
Freedom of Information legislation. Telstra was found to "remain
orientated to avoiding disclosure of information". This comment could
be applied to all of the organisations WBA members have had
experience with. A customer of Telstra, Mrs Ann Garms, who is a
member of Casualties of Telecom (COT) Cases Australia has demanded
that senior management of Telstra are 'called to account'. The WBA is
not holding its breath for such an event to happen. Telstra has
already agreed to pay compensation to some COT members, leaving the
public as usual having to pay a triple price for bureaucratic
maladministration - we pay for their mistakes, their cover-ups and
then compensation too.
NSW standing commissions - avoidance of their primary
Complaints made by individuals about the NSW Health Care
Complaints Commission (HCCC) run along similar lines as those made
about the ICAC. Currently the Joint Parliamentary Committee to the
HCCC is conducting an inquiry into "localised health complaint
resolution procedures". Although the HCCC must investigate complaints
if "in their opinion" this is warranted after initial assessment,
according to the Medial Consumers Association the HCCC appears to
adopt the same methodology as the ICAC by making numerous assessments
NOT to investigate. It seems the public is paying a great deal for
commissions such as the ICAC and the HCCC NOT to do anything. The
following letter by Dr Eleanor Dawson (retired Psychiatrist) which
was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 July is indicative
of the concerns raised by many 'obstructed' complainants:
"The Health Care Complaints Commissioner, Ms Merrilyn Walton, is
reported to have expressed concern that the psychiatric profession
had been slow to report alleged sexual misconduct of psychiatrists,
also to have suggested that there is a need to consider making such
reporting mandatory (Herald July 6).
Whatever the speed of action of professional organisations, I have
detailed knowledge of two such complaints made by individual
professionals in the mental health field, one of them a senior
psychiatrist. Both complaints had been made explicitly in the general
interests of patients and profession and in each case the outcome
after 5 years is most unsatisfactory.
After 2 1/2 years the commission (then the complaints unit)
reluctantly investigated one, proceeding eventually to make it out
behind closed doors with an order suppressing names of the
practitioner and witnesses. In the same matter only nine months ago,
the commission joined in and supported the subject practitioner's
Supreme Court action, conducted by his medical defence organisation,
to prevent the original complainant psychiatrist appealing against
the decision in the Medical Tribunal.
The other complaint has never been investigated at all in any
reasonable sense. In this context the Commissioner's virtuous
consideration of mandatory reporting seems like clever window
dressing. What is really going on?"
Just as employees in the NSW public sector are obliged to report
their suspicions of corruption (not proof) either internally
or to the ICAC, the ICAC for reasons it keeps to itself, chooses not
to investigate over 95% of complaints about corruption. Prior to any
investigation, the ICAC even decides that some complaints are
frivolous and/or vexatious. How this can be decided before there has
been any investigation and it has been categorically determined that
there has been no corruption is anyone's guess. Perhaps staff at the
ICAC are psychic.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 July gives some useful
insights into the attitude of the ICAC's investigators. It was
reported that 4 investigators had resigned from the ICAC as they had
misgivings about the methods of the commission and those of its
commissioner, Mr O'Keefe, fearing the ICAC's bureaucratic approach
would bungle an on-going inquiry into Aboriginal land councils. A
director of the Western Aboriginal Legal Service, Mr Alex Pappin was
quoted as saying that people with complaints had been "treated like
criminals". This attitude was reflected in Mr O'Keefe's statement to
the Parliamentary Committee which is currently reviewing the NSW
Protected Disclosures Act; he appeared to come very close to
expressing his contempt for whistleblowers (i.e. complainants).
If the HCCC treats complaints in a similar manner one can only have
the greatest of sympathy for any person who dares to complain that
they have been abused by a psychiatrist.
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody - are royal commissions
Amnesty International has recently condemned as shameful
Australia's failure to curb the soaring number of Aboriginal deaths
in custody stating that "every one of these appalling deaths is an
indictment of Australian Federal and State government's record of
abysmal failure to tackle Aboriginal deaths in custody. Despite much
talk and even a royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody,
little as changed. Some would say the situation is worse.
One really has to wonder if royal commissions serve any useful
purpose if recommendations made as an outcome of these are ignored,
never implemented or even if implemented, this fails to achieve an
improvement to the problem inquired into. According to the Aboriginal
Deaths in Custody Watch Committee the numbers of Aborigines being
jailed is on the rise which is a contravention of a key
recommendation of the royal commission.
NSW has a history of conducting royal commissions into police
corruption at regular intervals and it would seem reasonable to
consider that the current one may not be the last.
So, are royal commissions worthwhile? Should we continue to allow
history to repeat itself? What can be done to ensure that
recommendations are implemented effectively? It seems as though the
only group which appears to gain substantial benefit from these
commissions is the legal profession.
Private Sector Whistleblowers - warnings ignored at public
In recent months there have been a number of major stories about
serious problems in the private sector nearly all involving great
embarrassment and substantial cost to corporations (and of course
shareholders and other members of the public) - embarrassment and
costs which could have been avoided if the warnings of WBs had not
been ignored e.g., the deaths of passengers in the Monarch airline
crash, the environmental damage caused by BHP at Ok Tedi and Shell in
Nigeria, the collapse of Barings Bank and of copper prices, and Coles
Corporations have ended up with egg on their faces after years of
attempting to cover-up, bluster and shut-up critics. Even when
problems have been highly publicised and become undeniable, no-one
ever seems to get called to account and it is the public who always
ends up bearing the cost.
Bankers Trust recently backed down and apologised to a female
employee who complained about sexual harassment and appalling
behaviour on the trading floor which had been accepted practice for
years, but only after days in public hearings, over which BT had
attempted, but failed, to gain a suppression order. A win for the
individual but only gained at a great deal of personal cost.
There is no doubt that we must lobby for legislation for to protect
employees in the private sector who speak out in the public interest.
We are all affected by what private sector organisations do and as
more public sector agencies are privatised, such legislation becomes
even more imperative.
All members are urged to write letters to papers and to lobby their
Federal and State MPs to demand that the issue of whistleblowing
legislation for all employees is put on the immediate agenda.
'QC attacks whistleblower sacking' (Sydney Morning Herald
Mr Phillip Coleman, QC, has recently completed an inquiry for the
ABC into the treatment of WB John Millard who complained about issues
which he considered compromised the editorial independence of the
ABC. Mr Coleman reported that Mr Millard, a long-time television
reporter, was victimised on several occasions and that his
whistleblowing "had an effect" on management ending his contract,
despite the ABC's policy not to discriminate against whistleblowers.
Senior ABC executives were heavily criticised in the report. It will
be interesting to see what, if any action is taken against these
executives and what if any remedy is to be afforded to Mr Millard.
Don't hold your breath.
"Information is the lynch-pin of the political process, knowledge
is quite literally power. If the public is not informed, it can not
take part in the political process with any real effect." -- Tony
Fitzgerald, Queensland's Royal Commissioner
"Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light." -- Unknown.
"Sunlight is the best disinfectant." -- Unknown.
Organisational support for whistleblowers
By GREG McMAHON
These notes describe matters raised by participants during the
brainstorming session of the Whistleblowers Australia Strategy
Workshop held in Melbourne on 28 June 1996.
The participants included individuals from NSW, Victoria and
Queensland as well as representatives from the Whistleblower Support
Group established in one of the major public sector organisations in
The participants brainstormed on the question:
* What support do whistleblowers in an organisation need?"
Three general areas of support were identified.
* Whistleblowers need to trust or be comfortable with/be reassured as
to how they will be treated in the organisation.
* There needs to be a culture of support within the organisation for
whistleblowers and whistleblowing.
* There needs to be a community environment of support for the
contributions by whistleblowing and whistleblowers.
This is the essence of the climate within an organisation that is
necessary before whistleblowers are likely to come forward within
Culture of Support within Organisation
Many ideas were proposed for organisations to demonstrate genuineness
in developing support programs for whistleblowers within their
* Multiple avenues should be made available to potential
whistleblowers for the disclosure of waste, corruption etc,
internal avenues (multiple)
* Chief Executive Officers must take a personal and active role in
recognising acts of whistleblowing for their value to the
organisations and the loyalty and courage of whistleblowers for their
* The protections afforded whistleblowers need to achieve the same
profile and levels of acceptance as the categories of persons
(females, aboriginals, migrants, handicapped persons) protected under
* Employees need to be given training in the ethics of the
organisation from their earliest employment.
* Systems of both one-on-one whistleblower support officers and case
management officers need to be established.
* Past whistleblowers from within (and without) the organisation
should be involved in whistleblower support.
* Practical advice should be given to potential whistleblowers both
on: what they should consider before making a public interest
disclosure; how they can best protect themselves against most forms
of common reprisals.
These advices and practical hints (and warnings) should be included
in organisational writings on their whistleblower support programs;
else the organisation should refer their employees contemplating
making a disclosure to an outside organisation (such as
Whistleblowers Australia) who may be able to provide this information
* The duties statements of Senior and Middle Managers and their
Performance Plans should include their responsibilities both with
respect to wrong doing and also to the treatment of those who
* Whistleblowers should be advised of the outcomes of investigations
into matters that were the subject of disclosures made by these
Community Environment of Support
The Whistleblower needs to feel they have support for their
disclosures not only from within the organisation but also from the
This favourable community environment, it was held, would be
* the enactment of effective whistleblower protection
* a record of willing enforcement of the legislation by the
* a record of remedial outcomes effected by appropriate authorities
to repair the lives and careers of whistleblowers injured by
The result of the brainstorming indicated:
* there are a lot of things that organisations can do to demonstrate
actions as well as words in the support of whistleblowers amongst
their own staff.
* there is a role for outside organisations such as Whistleblowers
Australia in the development of whistleblowers support programs
* organisations by themselves cannot achieve for whistleblowers the
support whistleblowers need - the support must also exist in the
WBA National Committee Meeting, 28 June
The day before the national conference in Melbourne, the national
executive of WBA held a meeting in the morning to discuss various
issues, especially priorities, campaigns and strategy for the future.
From the national executive, those attending were Brian Martin
(president), Jean Lennane (vice president), Isla MacGregor (vice
president), Lesley Pinson (director), Matilda Bawden (secretary),
Greg McMahon (legislation coordinator) and Kim Sawyer (conference
coordinator). Vince Neary (treasurer) was unavailable. As well, some
other members were in attendance for part or all of the meeting. Here
are the main outcomes.
Frequency of publication of The Whistle
It was agreed that if possible The Whistle would be brought out 6
times per year, but this is at the discretion of the editor (Lesley
Pinson), and it is possible that contingencies may reduce the
Return of a fraction of membership fees to branches
At least one branch wanted its allocated fraction of membership
fees returned to cover expenses such as payment for typing. Currently
a large fraction of the annual membership fee is consumed by
production and distribution of The Whistle, by distribution of
information to people making inquiries, and by phone calls by some
members of the national executive. These costs are borne centrally
rather than by the branches. We recommended that one third of the
membership fees be available for return to branches on request and
production of suitable receipts or invoices. A formal decision will
be made at the next Annual General Meeting.
We recommended that WBA not seek tax-deductibility, since it
would put too great a constraint on our ability to engage in action
supportive of whistleblowers and related policy issues.
1996 Annual General Meeting
We agreed on an AGM in November in either Brisbane or Sydney, to
be decided at the end of July depending on the number of financial
members in Queensland. Since then, I have been informed that there
will not be enough WBA members in Queensland. (Whistleblowers there
are more likely to be members of Whistleblowers Action Group, a
separate organisation that works closely with WBA.) Hence, the AGM
will be in Sydney in November, with details to be announced.
Arrangements for memberships, finances, record-keeping, contact
with members, and other duties and activities by committee
Richard Blake of the NSW branch has raised several concerns: some
membership forms arrive without nominators and seconders;
applications for membership need to be formally accepted by the
national committee We appointed a subcommittee consisting of the
national director, secretary, and treasurer to look into these issues
and make proposals for the AGM.
Policy on media releases, comment to media, etc.
We agreed that any member of the national executive can issue a
media release or comment to the media. In normal circumstances, media
releases should be checked first with another member of the
executive, typically president, vice-president or director. In all
cases, approval should be sought in advance from anyone whose name is
given in a release. In other words, members of the national executive
should take responsibility for their own initiatives, taking care to
check with others especially on sensitive topics (i.e. most of
them!). The same sort of policy can apply to state branches. Isla
agreed to prepare a list of media contact numbers and to circulate a
media release kit. WBA does not have a formal policy on specific
issues, for example whistleblower legislation. We noted that within
the organisation there is support for different policy positions.
The draft defamation leaflet text that I had circulated was
approved for publication as a WBA document, with permission to make
minor changes and add graphics.
Content of The Whistle
Lesley appealed for submissions of state reports, articles, press
A number of positions were presented in a discussion of strategy,
including the following options:
* focussing on federal whistleblower legislation, and insisting on
John Howard meeting a delegation from WBA;
* running a number of campaigns, especially ones that allow people to
* nominating the top 10 whistleblower cases;
* holding a whistleblower celebration as planned in NSW.
There was no consensus on a particular national campaign or
initiative. That means that branches and individuals can pursue the
campaigns they believe are most appropriate.
ICAC survey: credibility, removal of bias,
The following is a letter sent to ICAC by Richard Blake, NSW
Committee Member, on 28 July 1996. It was given as his own opinion
and is not necessarily the opinion of any other member.
Research Officer, ICAC
I refer to our phone conversation of 22nd July. Thank you for the
information you gave and for courteously receiving my suggestion
about the selection of twenty.
I have had further thoughts about the project and the observations
hereunder may be of assistance.
I was somewhat surprised that ICAC seemed to believe that results
produced by a study done in secret by them would receive automatic
total credibility from the general public or from my fellow-members
of Whistleblowers Australia. I am not here accusing any particular
individual of anything; but I must say it would obviously be as
absurd to expect anyone to assume that unethical behaviour cannot
happen in ICAC as it would be to expect them to assume that crime
never happens in the Police Service. It seems essential, therefore,
for your own sakes as well as for the public interest, that methods
are built into your study which will ensure that it is not only fair
and truthful, but also seen to be fair and truthful.
I acknowledge the absolute constraint that no name of any of your
clients can be revealed to any outside party.
Given that, I reiterate here my suggestion that a random place in the
alphabet be chosen in front of independent witnesses, and then, with
the relevant names of respondents arranged in alphabetical order, the
twenty names starting at the selected place be used. (If the run of
names is under twenty at the end of the, say, Zs, one goes to the
beginning of the As). ICAC could then make public the range by
quoting, say, the first two letters of the first and last names, e.g. "Ga to Mo". Respondents whose names fell within this range would
expect to be contacted, and those whose names did not would not.
This process by itself will obviously not achieve complete
credibility of results, and a system of questions and answers needs
to be devised which will then ensure this (or go close to doing so).
I suggest that at least part of the survey should be a schedule of,
say, seven or eight basic questions to which the respondent will give
answers in the form of a satisfaction rating from, say one to ten.
The questions could relate to courtesy, promptness of reply,
thoroughness of investigation etc. etc. A chart of all twenty
answer-schedules, in a random order, could then be published in a
(pre-advised) edition of a leading newspaper and each respondent
could check that his/her response was there. E.g., if there were
seven questions and Joe Bloggs answered: 5, 6, 7, 1, 0, 9, 3, he
could look in the paper and see that line; and all the others could
check and see their lines.
In fact, this system lends itself much more to a mailed response than
to one made by phone, and I think this should have been done as
supplementary to the phone survey or even instead of it. However it
could be done by phone, as long as the respondent keeps notes; or you
could allow the respondent to opt during the phone call to be sent a
Another important action to enhance credibility would be to make
public the whole method you intend to use, including the questions
you intend to ask, before you begin the selection.
New South Wales News, by Richard Blake
Activities and Administration
The Monthly meeting on 7th July included the AGM of the Branch. A
new Committee was elected. The President is Cynthia Kardell, a Health
Commission WB, and the Secretary is Alex Tees, a Building Services
Corporation WB. Other Committee members are: Jim Regan (former
President), Richard Blake (former Secretary), Ross Sullivan, Grahame
Wilson and Mustafa Karamanoglu.
Attendances have continued to be very good at the Sharing and Caring
Meetings (every Tuesday night), peaking at 16 on the 16th July,
despite the cold weather.
Please make a special note in your diary:
The new President, assisted by other members and in collaboration
with the Balmain Presbyterian Church, is arranging a "Celebration" of
Whistleblowing (her own idea) for Tuesday 20th August. This will be
held in the Church, and will combine inspirational talks and musical
items. See enclosed flyer.
Please make a another special note in your diary!:
NSW Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations Jeff Shaw
has agreed to speak at our monthly Branch meeting on Sunday 1st
September. At time of writing, we do not know the exact time, so
phone Richard on 02 559 1680 or Cynthia on 02 484 6895 about a week
before if you need to know; or just turn up at the sausage sizzle at
12.30. to be safe. We also do not know the title of the talk, but it
will probably be about the Protected Disclosures Act.
Dept. of Community Services
Due to time pressures from many other things, we still have not
yet officially demanded a Royal Commission from the Government, but
hope to get this done soon.
Independent Commission Against Corruption
The dispute between WBA and ICAC with regard to their responses
to and treatment of WBs continues. Last year, we gave the results of
our own survey to ICAC with a figure of 16 people dissatisfied with
the way they had been treated. Commissioner O'Keefe asked us for
names and we recently supplied those of two people who were very
dissatisfied, Stan Karpinski and David Jackson. He has since said, in
the course of the Ombudsman's current review of the PDA. and via
various media, that they had no problem. They very much beg to
differ, and negotiations are presently going on with ABC TV for
publicity about the matter. "Stateline" (Friday nights) may have this
item in the near future, if it has not already by the time you read
We are pleased that ICAC are at last conducting their own customer
survey. We assume that this has arisen partly, if not wholly, in
response to our challenges in newspapers and in this newsletter. ICAC
had previously been relying for a rating of its performance on an old
survey of the general population, i.e. based almost entirely on the
opinions of people who have had no dealings with it.
Apparently due to lack of funding, the new survey is rather limited.
It is restricted to the 241 people who have made 'protected
disclosures' to ICAC under the Act of the same name and only twenty
of these are to be selected at random and asked questions (by phone).
Although 241 is a shocking figure, and one must sympathise with their
workload, one must say that this procedure contrasts hugely with that
of the equivalent body in Queensland, the CJC, which continuously
surveys 100% of its informants for customer satisfaction!
ICAC have told us that all were sent a letter at the end of June
asking if they would be prepared to participate. By 22nd July they
had received 50 positive replies, but were shortly going to re-mail
the non-repliers in order to obtain as many acceptances as possible
before choosing the twenty.
It is, of course, extremely important that the selection of twenty is
not only unbiased, but also seen to be unbiased; also that the
reporting of the results is not only done truthfully but seen to be
done truthfully. Committee member Richard Blake has suggested to
their Research Officer methods whereby these constraints can be
adhered to without revealing the names of any clients to outsiders. A
copy of his letter is published elsewhere in this issue.
Stopping waste in a foreign aid organisation: a
whistle blown successfully
By V. J. KANE
(Vin Kane is a member of a rare species: he is a successful
whistleblower! After hearing numerous tales of woe from
whistleblowers, his story, told below, is most welcome. It is
important to realise that he had everything going for him. He was
retired and was not dependent for income from the organisation
concerned. He had a career's worth of experience in the public
service, with contacts among both politicians and top public
servants. As well, a federal election was held at a convenient time,
making politicians more willing to take up the case. In spite of all
these advantages, his task was far from easy, and a less skilled,
determined or resourceful individual might not have done as well. We
should learn from this example and be inspired by it, but not gain
the false impression that others will have such an "easy" time of it.
In November 1994, I resigned from my part-time position as project
officer with the Australian Executive Service Overseas Program Ltd.
(AESOP) and submitted a 30 page report to the Director General,
Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), alleging
maladministration and gross waste of public money by AESOP.
I took this action only after I had:
* seen clear documentary evidence within AESOP to substantiate my
* formed the impression that my colleagues in AESOP would not
participate with me in any internal action to rectify the situation
that had developed in the company;
* spoken in confidence about my concerns on separate occasions to
members of the AESOP Board with no effective outcome;
* written and then considered very carefully a draft outline report
recording my concerns;
* taken measures to ensure that if challenged, I could produce
evidence to substantiate my allegations;
* obtained an independent and objective opinion as to the seriousness
of my concerns from a person who has legal qualifications and
considerable political experience;
* read carefully the August 1994 Report of the Senate Select
Committee on Public Interest Whistleblowing;
* come to the view that there was no other way to reform the
administration of the company, as the Managing Director was firmly
entrenched, the Board complacent and the supervisory agency (AusAID)
* decided that the loss of income and workplace social contact
resulting from my resignation from AESOP could be accepted and that I
could achieve my objective without attracting a defamation suit.
My allegations were lengthy in detail, but the essence of them was
that through a lack of diligence on the part of both the Board of
AESOP and AusAID, the company was grossly misusing public funds that
had been appropriated by the Parliament for overseas development
Here are some of the matters detailed in my report.
* Excessive overseas travel was undertaken by the Managing Director,
who in a period of two years visited 22 countries.
* Aid funds were used to pay all the travel and accommodation
expenses for the Managing Director and his spouse to visit Europe,
North America and Japan.
* The Managing Director was grossly overpaid relative to the value
and nature of the work and responsibility involved. His cash
remuneration had increased in the space of five years from $65,000 to
$100,000 (and it was revealed subsequently that these increases had
never been put to the full Board).
* There was no form of financial delegation. Financial commitments,
procurement and payments were controlled exclusively by the Managing
Director and he made cash advances to himself without any initiating
* Capital expenditure on office equipment, in particular computer
hardware and software, was excessive relative to the size and
importance of AESOP.
* The representation costs of the AESOP representative in Thailand (a
former Canberran) were out of proportion to those paid to all other
overseas representatives. In 1992/93, he was paid $33,245 (including
reimbursements) while other representatives averaged $1000 each in
* Aid funds were being used to subsidise the operations and enhance
the profits of wealthy private sector businesses; in many cases
Australian volunteers were simply being used as a source of cheap
* The lack of financial information in AESOP's Annual Report could
well be construed as a deliberate attempt to conceal the way in which
the government grant was being spent.
In handing over my report to AusAID's Director General, I said that I
intended to keep my allegations confidential but I asked to be kept
informed of the action that would follow.
Review and audit
Late in November 1994, I was advised by AusAID that a review
would be carried out into the effectiveness and efficiency of the
four agencies that manage volunteer programs, of which AESOP is one.
Also, a firm of auditors, BDO Nelson Parkhill, would assess the
management, financial and administrative practices of AESOP.
The audit investigation began in December and by January 1995, by
which time I had met with the investigators on three occasions, it
was clear that matters of a more serious nature than reported in my
document had been uncovered.
At about the same time, I began to have doubts as to whether the
final audit report would in fact be a rigorous and comprehensive
presentation, and indeed whether my allegations were being taken with
the seriousness that I believed they warranted.
For example, there were suggestions that AusAID intended to increase
AESOP's grant for 1995/96, and there was a proposal to give AESOP
responsibility for the implementation of new overseas aid
I also discovered that the Board had confirmed the Managing Director
and his spouse travelling to Paris in May 1995, using aid funds to
pay all their expenses. At a later stage, I found the Managing
Director had been given a further two year employment contract, while
in November 1994, the Board had formally resolved to pay legal costs
for any action that the Directors or the staff might take, presumably
against me, as a result of my action.
I could see the makings of a whitewash and I was determined to
counter this eventuality.
On 23 March 1995 I contacted the Acting Director General, AusAID, and
subsequently delivered him a letter which raised my concerns about
the rigour of the audit and the attitude of the Board. To underline
my determination to pursue this matter, I sought an unqualified
assurance that AESOP's grant for the coming year would be reduced to
the amount necessary to meet legally binding commitments.
I made it clear that if such an assurance was not forthcoming, I
would pursue my allegations of maladministration and gross waste in
AESOP through representations in the Parliament.
The assurance was not given and on 30 March, after meeting with me
and studying a copy of my November document, Senator Jocelyn Newman,
Senator for Tasmania, placed a total of 21 questions on the Notice
These questions, addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and
Trade, sought to confirm through the procedures of the Parliament the
veracity and seriousness of my allegations concerning the management
of public funds within AESOP.
On 5 April, before the questions were answered, AusAID sent me a copy
of the BDO audit report. I found it to be curiously ambivalent. It
concluded that operational and control procedures in AESOP were
adequate to safeguard public funds but there had been numerous
breaches by AESOP of the financial agreement with AusAID.
The report listed 18 adverse findings resulting from the audit
investigations. Among these were the following:
* some $15,000 in expenses had been paid to the Managing Director (by
the Managing Director) for which there was no supporting
* the Managing Director had understated his remuneration in the
1993/94 financial statements by some $20,000;
* in a period of approximately three years, $146,000 had been paid to
the Managing Director in the form of reimbursement of expenses or
cash advances associated with his overseas visits;
* funds granted to AESOP for 'recurrent costs' had been used to
acquire fixed assets, contrary to the financial agreement;
* capital expenditure had not been authorised by the Board;
* representative costs in Thailand were well in excess of any other
* the Board should review salaries in AESOP and also determine if the
Managing Director's remuneration was excessive.
On 10 April I wrote an 8 page letter to AusAID, listing what I saw as
defects in the audit report. I pointed out that my November
criticisms focused on the almost total lack of accountability within
AESOP, while the audit report dealt in the main with the question of
accounting standards and practices.
I foreshadowed questions being raised about AESOP's accountability
and the role of AusAID during the forthcoming Senate Committee
consideration of the 1995/96 budget, and I warned that at one level
of AESOP management, AusAID was seen "merely as the goose that lays
the golden egg".
I sent a copy of this letter to the Secretary, Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade, and also to the Chairman of AESOP.
The questions asked by Senator Newman on 30 March were answered on 9
May. Nothing in the answers detracted from, or diminished the
criticism in my November document, but the style and nature of the
language used confirmed my earlier misgivings about the handling of
my allegations and the presentation of the audit findings.
I then obtained an appointment with Senator Christabel Chamarette, of
the Green Party (WA) and gave her a full briefing. The Senator
attended the 1 June Senate Committee estimates hearing and asked
officers of AusAID why it had been left to employees, rather than the
responsible government agency, to bring to light serious deficiencies
in the use of public funds by overseas aid organisations like CARE
Australia and AESOP.
A senior AusAID officer replied (apparently in extenuation) that "the
former employee had spent four or five years (in AESOP) collecting
the information that he presented to AusAID in late November 1994".
These remarks were untrue and I found them also to be offensive. In
later correspondence with the Director General AusAID, I effectively
disposed of this unwarranted slur.
The 5 June 1995 issue of the Australian Financial Review carried a
report of the audit investigations and quoted the Managing Director
as claiming that he enjoyed the confidence of the Board.
On 13 June, after a further briefing, Senator Newman placed another
14 questions on the Notice Paper, the answers to which were provided
on 22 August. A slight weakening of the earlier hard line was
apparent. For example, the Minister accepted that the Managing
Director's remuneration "appears high".
The publicity about AESOP now brought forth another intervention.
Noting that the Minister had decided that an AusAID officer should be
appointed to the Board of AESOP, a former Board member wrote urging
him to select a woman, pointing out that there had been only one
woman on the Board since the company was established in 1985.
The former Board member drew attention to difficulties experienced
while on the Board, principally in being unable to obtain information
from the Managing Director. For example, it was claimed that the
basis of the Managing Director's remuneration was never established
at Board meetings.
Senate Committee estimates hearings resumed on 23 June. I briefed
Senator Chamarette and during the proceedings, she questioned AusAID
officers about the degree of accountability in AESOP and the extent
of supervision by officials.
The Senator placed on record in the Hansard of the Committee hearing
what was in fact the key aspect of my criticism, and an important
motivation for my actions, that "neither the Board of AESOP nor
AusAID seemed to be aware that the public moneys handed over each
year to AESOP were being used predominantly to enrich the lifestyle
of the Managing Director".
In July 1995, AESOP's accountant/company secretary resigned,
concerned about possible implication by association. The new
appointee lasted until November, when he also resigned, as I
understand it, for similar reasons.
Early in July, I had an informal meeting with the recently retired
Commonwealth Auditor General. He arranged an appointment for me with
senior officers of the Australian National Audit Office. I briefed
these officers extensively on the situation, pointing out that public
moneys were being misused by AESOP and there appeared to be little
corrective action in train, either by the Board or by AusAID.
I was told that the Audit Office would see what action might be
appropriate, in the context of AusAID's responsibility to monitor the
expenditure and obtain a proper acquittance of the grant made to
AESOP. I am not aware if in fact anything was done in this regard by
the Audit Office.
By this time, it was clear to me that AusAID's tactical position was
to place the whole responsibility for remedial action on the Board of
AESOP. It was my view however that the Board members not only would
be poorly advised by the Managing Director but also would need
strengthening in both their conviction and motivation.
Consequently, on 15 August I wrote to the companies and institutions
that in effect appoint the members of the Board of AESOP. At the
time, these were the Shell Company, James Hardie Ltd., the Order of
Australia Association and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and
With my letter, I included a three page document listing some of the
serious management deficiencies exposed in AESOP and I asked that
their nominees on the Board take the necessary corrective action to
have AESOP put on a sound footing for the future.
I wrote again on 27 November, with a progress report on developments.
I pointed to the likelihood of unfavourable publicity being directed
towards those who had allowed this unsatisfactory situation to occur,
where in effect, public funds were at risk. Only one of those to whom
I wrote replied to me, in non-committal terms.
On 15 October 1995, the Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun published a
damaging article about AESOP, under the heading "Aid Chief in the
Money". Among other things, the article reported on the Managing
Director's $135,000 remuneration package, the $146,000 spent on
overseas expenses for himself and his spouse, and it quoted the
Managing Director as saying that part of his 'out of pocket' expenses
included buying the meat for the office Christmas party.
The West Australian Sunday Times of the same date carried a similar
article under the heading "Aid agency charitable to its boss".
The appearance of these newspaper articles brought renewed interest
in AESOP's activities from within the Parliament. On 23 October
Senator Chamarette placed a further 27 questions on the Notice Paper.
The answers, which were provided on 15 November, showed an emerging
and welcome recognition that reforms were needed in AESOP.
A Federal election was now in the offing. It was fortuitous therefore
that the opportunity arose to brief Mr Bruce Reid, MHR, the Member
for the electorate of Bendigo, a marginal seat. As a result, Mr Reid
placed a total of 30 questions on the House of Representatives Notice
Paper of 26 October. They were answered in late November 1995. Again,
the answers did nothing to diminish my criticism of AESOP management
When the AESOP Annual Report for 1994/95 appeared, it contained
for the first time since 1991 the full financial statements of the
company. In those statements, it was disclosed that the Managing
Director had received remuneration for the year in the amount of
It is interesting to note that the remuneration package of the
Director General, AusAID is in the order of $140,000. That officer
has responsibility for a budget of $1.5 billion and a staff of 586.
AESOP has a budget of $1.6 million and a staff of 9. The incongruity
of this comparison appeared to have escaped the attention of those
responsible for the prudent management of the funds appropriated for
In the Annual Report, the Chairman had written that following "complaints" by a former employee, AESOP had been scrutinised by
auditors BDO Nelson Parkhill and after a very exhaustive review, the
auditors did not support the complaints made.
This rather audacious and highly subjective view of the matter led
Senator Chamarette to ask more questions of the Minister during
Senate Additional Estimates hearings of 13 November. These questions,
and the answers that were subsequently provided, made it very clear
that my so-called complaints had indeed been effective in bringing
about a higher level of accountability in AESOP, at both Board and
In November, the auditors returned to AESOP for a follow-up review,
the purpose being to establish whether appropriate responses had been
made to recommendations in their previous report. Shortly afterwards,
on 1 December, the Managing Director tendered his resignation, with
effect from 31 December 1995. It would appear that he had lost the
confidence of the Board.
I believe this occurred because of the Managing Director's inability
to perceive, or accept, that the continuing public exposure of
maladministration in AESOP called for major changes in his management
style and behaviour.
The Australian Financial Review of 6 December quoted the Chairman as
saying that "the Board has agreed on an amicable separation with
[the Managing Director]". That person is quoted as saying "I
have nothing to add to what has been said".
A new Chief Executive Officer was appointed on a temporary basis,
pending the recruitment of a permanent appointee. As a final touch of
irony, the temporary CEO approached me soon after his appointment to
ask if I intended to continue my 'campaign' against AESOP!
The direct result of my intervention in the affairs of this small
government-funded overseas aid agency was the bringing about of a
much tighter control of the management of public funds, through:
* reforms in the standards and quality of the supervisory
relationship between AusAID and AESOP (and also other similarly
constituted aid organisations);
* a much greater responsibility being taken by the Board of AESOP in
the governance of the company;
* the enforced resignation of the Managing Director whose standards
of stewardship and behaviour in AESOP had been both abysmal and
My intervention also hastened and gave added point to two further
initiatives within AusAID:
* the establishment of a review team to report on the effectiveness
and efficiency of all four volunteer programs being funded by
* the establishment of a Code of Practice Advisory Committee, with
the task of drafting a Code of Conduct to include financial
accountability and reporting standards among non-government
organisations funded by AusAID.
1. Australian Executive Service Overseas Program, Report to AusAID, V
J Kane, 1 November 1994.
2. BDO Nelson Parkhill, Audit Report on AESOP, 24 March 1995; Follow
up Report, 16 May 1996.
3. Newspaper articles Australian Financial Review, 5 June 1995 Sunday
Herald Sun (Melbourne), 15 October 1995 Sunday Times (West
Australia), 15 October 1995 Australian Financial Review, 6 December
4. Parliamentary Hansard Questions on Notice:
No. 2074, 30 March 1995, Senator Newman
No. 2219, 22 August 1995, Senator Newman
No. 2606, 15 November 1995, Senator Chamarette
No. 2755, 1 December 1995, Mr Bruce Reid MHR
5. Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee,
Estimates hearings, Senator Chamarette: 1 June 1995, 23 June 1995, 13
The Australian Executive Service Overseas Program was established
in 1981 as a joint initiative of the Australian Chamber of Commerce
and Industry and the Australian International Development Aid Bureau
(now AusAID). The aim of the program, which was to be funded by the
government, was to assist the developing countries in this region to
achieve economic growth by posting to them Australian volunteers on
short term assignments.
In 1985 the program was incorporated as a company limited by
guarantee (AESOP Ltd.). Membership consisted of a number of
Australian companies and institutions and they nominated the
Directors to be appointed to the Board of the company.
In 1991 AESOP and the Minister signed a financial agreement,
guaranteeing an annual grant and placing certain accountability
obligations on AESOP. In 1992, the grant was $540,000. By 1995,
AusAID had increased AESOP's annual grant to $1,650,000.
Mr V J Kane
Mr Vin Kane retired from the Australian Public Service in 1987
after a career of some 43 years in public administration. His first
appointment in Canberra, in 1961, was to the position of Senior
Finance Officer in the newly established National Capital Development
In 1974 he transferred to the Department of Urban and Regional
Development. In subsequent moves to a variety of government
Departments in Canberra, he was responsible for the provision of
policy advice to a succession of Ministers on such diverse subjects
as telecommunications and satellite developments, uranium mining
(both environment protection and development) and Australian
He established policy for and administered a program of grants of
financial assistance to State and local governments and community
groups for environment protection and heritage conservation.
Mr Kane participated extensively in international conferences and
business meetings. He was the Australian delegate and Vice-Chairman
of the OECD Committee on Communications and Computer Policy (Paris),
delegation leader to the INTELSAT Meetings of Parties (Washington),
Vice-Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (Bangkok) and
Australian delegate to the South Pacific Commission (meeting in
Following his retirement in 1987, Mr Kane acted as a private
consultant on telecommunications policy, and from 1988 to 1994, he
was employed on a part-time basis as a project officer with the
Australian Executive Service Overseas Program (AESOP).
Mr Kane's academic qualifications include accountancy and public
An update on the review of the NSW Protected
Disclosures Act 1994
By CYNTHIA KARDELL
The Whistleblowers Committee for the Review of the Act comprised
Lesley Pinson, Alex Tees and me. The Committee put together a 15 page
submission which addressed all the key areas of concern to
whistleblowers for presentation at the Public Hearing which was held
in the Jubilee Room at Parliament House for the three days July
The presentation and Hearing was covered by whistleblowers Graham
Wilson, Bob May and myself. Happily both Ray Masters and Greg Franks
were also able to be there a great deal of the time which swelled our
ranks and enabled us to be a real presence and possibly influence the
course of events.
Looking back I think being there gave the Committee the opportunity
to feel that they could relate to us as peers and therefore to our
experiences. We certainly used the tea breaks to our advantage and
after all, we three were all grey haired wrinklies from professional
backgrounds and not one raving loony amongst us. Or not so that it
would show anyway!
Day one was whistleblower and related ideologues' day. John Hatton
kicked off. He was lucid and convincing. He commended our submission
to the Committee saying that it was thorough, professional and
practical (the Chairman later complimented us saying that it was
quite eloquent). Bill de Maria followed. Alex Tees (who had dropped
in especially) remarked that he "was bloody brilliant" and "had had
an answer for everything."
Good one Bill!!
We began the afternoon session. Initially the three of us together
dealt with the Committee's questions regarding the Whistleblowers
Submission before splitting up for individual 'in camera' sessions. I
am not sure how we did although I believe we acquitted ourselves well
enough. Simon Disney, the Research Officer to Senator Liz Kirkby,
remarked only a few days ago he felt that we had presented as a
cohesive professional group and that our sincerity was never in
Well done Graham and Bob.
Simon Longstaff from the St James Ethics Centre followed us mid
afternoon. He detailed the many and varied services provided by the
Ethics Centre which they considered could be better used if better
funded and made more available generally to whistleblowers. He was
followed by Chief Inspector Caroline Smith, from the NSW Police
Internal Witness Support Program, who provided a fairly detailed
account of the programs activities and achievements to date.
Day two was the hardcore lobbyists' day except for the first witness
Mr David Bennett QC from the NSW Bar Association who had fairly
strong opinions on the employer's right to choose who it had in its
employ and how to go about it. He was followed by the Dept. of Local
Govt. which wanted to be designated an investigating authority to
enable it to oversee the Local Councils. Not surprisingly the Local
Govt. Association (for the councils) was not too happy with this
prospect and put up a fairly aggressive defence. The Internal Audit
Bureau, contract auditors to the public sector organisations, also
wanted to be an investigating authority. Their arguments were even
less convincing then those put by their fellow lobbyists. Indeed
throughout day two which I found to be really quite interesting I had
the overwhelming impression that all the witnesses had strayed into
the wrong hearing! Because when pressed none of the groups
represented seemed to have any real idea of the particular
requirements of the Protected Disclosures Act or how it might shape
Day three was the investigating authorities' day. Tony Harris, the
Auditor General, began proceedings. He was impressive for the way he
repeatedly pressed the point that an investigating authority should
concentrate on the stuff of the disclosure, almost to the exclusion
of the whistleblower. He maintained that the issues of whether it was
vexatious, frivolous and or made to avoid disciplinary action
resolved themselves if the investigator made its priority the public
interest in getting to the nitty gritty. The Auditor General also
believes that an interview with the whistleblower (or even a series
of interviews, plus a debrief at the end) is essential to a
successful investigation. Wow! I couldn't help pondering what ICAC
could be if it were to be infused with such an attitude!
Irene Moss, the Ombudsman and Chris Wheeler, the Deputy Ombudsman,
They provided a polished act: one which reflected the same lucid
responsible approach to the implementation of the Act as had the
Auditor General. Laudably they had made the decision to make the
first point of entry to the Ombudsman's Office for the purpose of a
protected disclosure a senior member (unlike others) ..... none other
than the Deputy ...as they took the view that a knowledge based
approach would result in the most effective and efficient use of
their funds and time and provide for the best overall result given
the objects of the Act.
Mr R West, Commissioner of the Community Services Commission,
provided a brief return to the question of an extension of protection
under the Act to the Community Services before Mr Barry O'Keefe,
Commissioner of the ICAC., took the stand swearing to tell the truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Mr O'Keefe proceeded to lambast Whistleblowers Australia in no
uncertain terms. He irritatedly fretted how could one assist the
whistleblowers when on every occasion he sought information about the
ICAC's shortcomings they would not give him the names of the people
so affected. He went on that when Whistleblowers finally gave him two
names he checked and found that the ICAC was blameless...[not
quite right Barry! - refer S. Karpinski / D. Jackson] ..... and
then, how could one take the organisation seriously when the
Whistleblowers' President is telling people not to make
Curiously Mr O'Keefe had begun by saying that he had not come there
to be defensive but he sure as hell was (defensive). He gave us a
real pasting. And when he was asked something like 'can I take it you
don't like to deal with whistleblowers' he didn't disagree!
Mr O'Keefe made no apology for any perception that the Committee
might have that the ICAC had not adjusted its practice to reflect the
objects of the Act. In a nutshell it appeared that coming in on
budget was much more important than what it was actually spent on!
And if the whistleblower could fund what amounted to an investigation
under the guise of the unfair dismissals jurisdiction then that could
be a real save.
Protecting whistleblowers? Well now, it just wasn't an issue. After
all they had an action at law if everything went wrong for them
didn't they? Meaning (I assumed) that there was no real room for
complaint because after bankruptcy - well there was another life -
and we could bring the blowie's to book ourselves (refer footnote),
if it was all that important.
And no! .. Mr O'Keefe couldn't see how the Commission's performance
could be improved beyond perhaps having a senior staff member
dedicated to the task but that would unacceptably compromise the
opportunities available to his staff. He turned to an assisting staff
member (should he have missed something) ...... but no, he couldn't
suggest much beyond a dedicated unit with special funding.
A dedicated unit, a Public Interest Disclosures Agency or PIDA , was
an idea which had gained greater currency as the Hearing
progressed..... albeit for different reasons. It seemed at the
Hearing's end that there was a general consensus that a PIDA (say
'Peeda'), along the lines suggested by Whistleblowers but under the
umbrella of the Ombudsman's Office was a real possibility. Indeed the
Ombudsman was asked by the Committee to consider such an eventuality
and provide the Committee with a proposal as soon as possible.
When later at the end we gathered at Parliament's gate for a debrief
we agreed that there did appear to be a willingness to make changes
and a genuine recognition by the Committee of the problems with what
is in effect a real Clayton's act. And it seemed to us that not even
an unrepentant Mr O'Keefe who appeared to be seriously out of step
with his peers was likely to stop it. He may even have helped it.
We came away hopeful and glad that we had been there.
The Committee's Report is expected to be tabled in Parliament late
August. We will be there.
Footnote: I should explain my use of the term 'blowie' which is
commonly used to describe a big fat blowfly and a real pest in plague
proportions. In the context of whistleblowing 'blowie' [or
blowy] would be a person or organisation who has been blown right
out of the water, had their cover blown, or was blown (as in flyblown
or rotten) or was blown away (where the blowie gets their
comeuppance) ...... etc
Can you imagine the headlines for instance?
WHISTLEBLOWER WIN - ANOTHER BLOWIE BITES THE DUST !
Of course 'blowie' could be a little confusing and there probably is
a more apt term. Any ideas? Write in with your suggestions.
ATTENTION NSW WHISTLEBLOWERS RE PROPOSED SURVEY
Whistleblowers NSW wants to survey their membership in relation
to a range of matters. For example:
 whether dismissal was by way of medical retirement,
redundancy or fabricated charges etc or
 what investigating authority received your complaint.
We hope to gather sufficient and reliable information to address a
number of issues as diverse as those of forced medical retirement and
the operation of the ICAC. The initial survey will be by telephone to
ascertain which category of survey you fall into. At the conclusion
of a survey each respondent will be provided with a copy of the
survey information recorded as provided by them.
I trust that you will assist us in this as it is incredibly important
for this information to be out in the open.
Whistleblowers dared because they cared (about the organisation's
integrity). But now the big question is "does the SRA management
The Auditor General's SRA Report was tabled in Parliament, the
recommendations were damning and the subsequent legislative and
structural changes sweeping and yet, it all has a touch of the
surreal about it. Because while there is (apparently) no doubt the
changes were necessary to combat what ICAC Commissioner described as
a 'bottomless pit of corruption' something is not quite right.
The story lacks something. Plausibility? How and why did this come
about? Where are the good guys ? There is no praise being bandied
about! No boastful righteousness! Weren't the good guys part of the
Whistleblower Neena Chadha knows; as do the many SRA whistleblowers
who put organisational integrity before personal safety, why there
are no 'good guys' to this story. Why there is only embarrassed
complicit silence...... the sort that springs from a lack of
intestinal fortitude to tell it as it is.
Whistleblowers NSW make the observation that the 'bottomless pit'
will remain bottomless for as long as it takes for SRA management to
give credit where credit is due. The corrupt and criminal will take
heart at SRA inaction believing whistleblowers are fair game,
everyone's mug, and soon it will be 'business again as usual.'
Whistleblowers NSW wrote to Mr Brian Langton, Minister for Transport,
on July 14, setting out the basic process by which the SRA management
can take a public unequivocal stand against corruption. SRA
management must publicly demonstrate a willingness to make itself
accountable. Whistleblowers must be publicly commended for giving the
SRA its future.
Whistleblowers NSW maintain that whistleblowers cannot continue to be
SRA management's guilty secret lest management be seen to be guilty
..... and not just embarrassed at not having known. As at 18 July Mr
Langton was having 'the matters raised in (our) representation
examined and a response will be provided as soon as possible.'
Come on SRA! Bite the bullet now.
Whistleblowing: a celebration
A short time ago several like-minded whistleblowers began
pondering the vexed question of our image. I mean the angst is all
too true but there are other things. Like for example, what motivates
a whistleblower and why public interest whistleblowing is so
important to a civil society like ours (sorry, should read 'the civil
society we would like to have'). Now we know those things, but why
isn't it obvious to others?
We needed to project a positive more inclusive image; one which could
be embraced by the average Joe or Jill. We cast around for ways and
it wasn't too long before the penny dropped [or should I say, the
We would blow our whistle... in a very public way. We'd strut our
stuff! After all if the Gay Rights Movement can do it so can we. Why
not a mardi gras???
But was that our style I asked myself? Feathers, G-strings and stuff?
I am not that fit I reflected moodily ... I would need months to
work-out. And it is winter!
And then it was that one Tuesday night, at a Caring and Sharing
meeting, one of Mozart's symphonies strayed in from the Steinway in
the Church next door and jolted me back into the middle of yet
another tale of woe. And I had it ... a music and word 'fest' ... in
No one thought it a silly idea ... and when John Hatton said yes I
knew it would work.
Thank you, John Hatton.
After all as Shakespeare said "the man that hath no music in himself,
nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons,
strategems, and spoils; the motions of his spirit are dull as night,
and his affections dark as Erebus: let no such man be trusted."
Do come ... and bring your family. It will be a good night ... it is
7.30pm Tuesday 20 August at the Campbell St Presbyterian Church
Unions and the whistleblower
By GREG MCMAHON
The University of Queensland's Whistleblowers Study in its first
publication, "Unshielding the Shadow Culture" (De Maria, 1994)
reports on the performance of unions in support of whistleblowers in
Unions, in the opinion of whistleblowers surveyed by the Qld study,
showed the greatest level of concern towards whistleblowers (35 % of
whistleblowers found the union attitude to be a very concerned"
compared with the CJC's 24% and the Premier's 12%). The Unions
however proved to be a most ineffective agency in dealing with
disclosures by whistleblowers (although more effective than the CJC,
etc); 62% of whistleblowers rated the unions as very
In absolute terms all agencies suffer from the absence of helpful
legislation in applying their concerns for whistleblowers into
effectiveness in protecting whistleblowers from reprisals.
An understanding of the apparent inconsistency in the relative levels
of concern and effectiveness by unions can be gained from an
appreciation of the natures of unions and unionism. These natures
allow unions some distinct advantages and disadvantages in assisting
whistleblowers through the making of disclosures and the prevention
The principal difficulty that arises for unions in both the
disclosure stage and also the reprisal stage of whistleblowing is
where the whistleblower and the alleged wrong-doer(s) are both (or
all) members of the union.
In this circumstances, a union can react so as not to become
involved. The tendency not to become involved can be reinforced
* an expectation of loss of membership or loss of fees for union
* the union culture for decision making based on a majority opinion
of its members in the workplace at issue.
* fears of reprisals against employee union representatives or shop
stewards at the workplace.
Unions do, on the other hand, have advantages for whistleblowers
seeking assistance in the disclosure of wrong doing and/or in the
prevention of reprisals:
* Unions are very experienced in the politics for dissent within
organisations. Three of the nine unresolved whistleblower cases in
Queensland identified by the first Senate Select Committee on Public
Interest Whistleblowing as deserving of independent investigation
were union officials or employee union representatives, and made
their disclosures in these capacities.
* Unions are very experienced in dealing with discrimination in the
workplace. Workplace representatives of unions are given legislative
protection in many jurisdictions from disadvantages in their
employment because of their trade union activity. Unions support the
claims of its members for relief from discriminatory practices and
policies under most of the categories of employees protected by Equal
Employment Opportunity legislation.
Unions can also be helpful to the better administration of
whistleblower protection. The years of structural efficiency and
enterprise bargaining have developed consultative practices within
organisations that allow unions to influence administrative
processes. The administrative processes developed by organisations
for the implementation of whistleblower protection policies are a key
area for whistleblower interest. Even in an unfavourable legislative
environment for whistleblowers, the administrative system can be
influenced to the benefit of whistleblowers. Unions can be a major
contributor to the development of administrative policies supportive
Thus in Queensland where the legislation on whistleblowers can be
employed as a trap for whistleblowers, it was not realistic to expect
public service departments to publish guidelines and procedures that
were critical of the legislation. It was however possible, through
union-management consultations and lobbying of human resources
managers, to incorporate into published departmental procedures best
practices" with respect to the HRM treatment of whistleblowers. "Best
practices", demonstrated by procedures in overseas jurisdictions, and
described in the reports by bodies such as EARC in Qld and by the
first Senate Select Committee, can be persuasive to HRM
practitioners, nowadays very much enamoured by the term.
Best practices that can be incorporated into organisational
procedures through union management consultations, include:
* advice to potential whistleblowers on matters they should consider
before making a public interest disclosure.
* advice to whistleblowers on how to best protect themselves from
reprisals in their usual forms.
* actions to be taken when the Chief Executive is involved or has
been compromised in the wrong doing or the reprisal.
* Inclusion of whistleblowers on an in-house whistleblower support
* Investigation procedures where the Investigating Officer
- has powers to take statements and documents
- has powers to require officers to answer questions and produce
- is directed to apply the standard and onus of proof set out in the
- is directed to follow the rules of natural justice described in an
addendum to the terms of reference for the investigation
- is directed to give reasons for findings, with a description as to
what constitutes "giving reasons".
Whether on balance a whistleblower or potential whistleblower is well
advised to take their matters to their union is an assessment that
can only be made with a knowledge of the union. This is true for
whistleblowers in taking their matters to unions, or to Ministers, or
to MLA's/MHR's/Senators, or to police, or to the permanent head of a
public service department.
This paper is offered as a discussion paper for conference
participants on the role of unions in whistleblowing within the
Report from Jean Lennane, Vice-President
NSW Police: The saga of the Royal Commission continues
WBA has made a submission for the final report of the Commission,
on suggested methods of reforming the NSW Police Service - a mammoth,
if not impossible task. WBA respresentatives were forced to withdraw
from the Internal Witness Advisory Council in June, after the Acting
Commissioner, Neil Taylor, decided to pursue an appeal against a
Compensation Court finding that was heavily in favour of police
whistleblower Tony Katsoulas. (The Court judgement said things like: "To say the investigation appeared to have resulted in a hasty
conclusion would, I think, be the least disturbing way to put it. I
found, from the material which has been provided to me, serious
matters of concern about the evidence given...The Court...found that
Mr Katsoulas was indeed attacked as he claims and...at the time he
was in execution of his duty...The other thing I wanted to say, and
say on the record, is this, that in view of the nature of the
evidence and the nature of the defence raised by the Commissioner of
Police, I intend to refer the whole of these papers to the Royal
The A/Commissioner had also failed to do anything towards the public
recognition of police whistleblowers which we had suggested was an
essential step - and also a very inexpensive and easy one - in
showing police and public that times have really changed, and
whistleblowers will really be supported and protected from the top
down. In our letter of resignation to the Police Minister on 19 June,
we said we would be happy to reconsider our decision if the new
Commissioner (starting in September) wanted a genuine change of
direction. As of 2 August, we have not had a reply. Our stint on the
Advisory Council was very valuable in getting the research started
(it is powering ahead, with a very good external researcher in
charge), and in giving us the opportunity to make a public noise
about the Katsoulas matter when it became clear that as far as the
top heirarchy were concerned it was still open season on
whistleblowers. It also sadly confirms that while police words sound
a lot better than they did, their actions haven't changed.
I was asked to speak on behalf of WBA at a two-day conference on
Investigation Techniques, 25-26 June, run by the Royal Institute of
Public Administration Australia in conjunction with ICAC and the NSW
Ombudsman. The conference was very interesting in its own right, and
attracted nearly 200 registrants. Charles Willock - who went on the
first day, and made his presence felt by asking some very curly
questions - and I, have copies of the program and some of the papers
given, if anyone is interested. Potential whistleblowers should be
aware of the types of security now available for protecting documents
from being leaked anonymously. These are mainly being used to stop
Cabinet Ministers from leaking, being too expensive for most
government departments. They include photocopying on specially
numbered paper, so that if, for example, the set that was leaked has
the number 3 embedded in the paper, that would identify a particular
Minister as the source. There are also more complex computer programs
which put inconspicuous changes in spacing and layout in different
copies, such that, if 40 per cent of a document is reproduced in a
newspaper, the source can be identified. WBs should also be aware
that putting things in the 'trash' in a computer does not delete them
altogether - they can be retrieved by someone who knows what they're
Apart from the interest of the conference itself, our presence I
thought was significant in showing an increasing acceptance of WBA by
the mainstream; although the feeling I had from most of the
registrants was of polite but wary tolerance of an exotic and
potentially dangerous animal. However, we were given a good hearing,
had some impact, with a great demand for our information leaflets,
and got paid $250 for participating in a "Hypothetical" at the end of
the conference, which I have passed on to our Treasurer.
Meeting with the Federal Attorney-General's minder
In early June, WBA representatives had a meeting in Sydney with
Melanie Grainger, personal assistant to A-G Darryl Williams. This was
to find out the new government's intentions regarding WB protection
legislation. Ms Grainger was pleasant and helpful, but there seemed
to be no intention to proceed with the recommendations of the Senate
committees, despite Chairman Jocelyn Newman's presence in the new
Cabinet. There seemed to be some intention to proceed with something,
some time, but they look like starting in a vague way from scratch.
She also was unaware of any post-election correspondence about Mick
Skrijel, which seems to have by-passed the Minister's office. Both
matters are now being pursued with Mr Howard.
Update on NSW police whistleblower Debbie Locke
Unfortunately the letter to Justice Wood on Debbie's case missed
the last edition of The Whistle owing to technical problems. The
letter in part read "You may not be fully aware of the unfortunate
and potentially tragic outcome of Deborah Locke's appearance before
the Commission two weeks ago. She was in the witness box testifying
for two days, as expected; then cross-examined for four days by a
succession of barristers (six of them) representing police she had
named in her evidence. This was not expected, particularly since all
of them were permitted to cross-examine her extensively and
repetitively on a wide range of material of no direct relevance to
their particular clients. The cross-examination appeared to be
co-ordinated between them in an attempt to break down her
credibility, and presumably herself, in the full knowledge that as a
result of her whistleblowing she had previously suffered a major
depressive illness, and an early miscarriage.
"As a direct result of her experience, she developed pneumonia and
subsequently septicaemia, went into labour prematurely, and delivered
a baby boy. He was of only 26 weeks' gestation, weighing 1.1 kilos.
His condition so far is stable, but the chances of survival at that
stage are only around 60 per cent, and there is a greatly increased
chance of brain and other damage in the long-term...".
Our problem was not that Debbie was cross-examined at all, but that
it was so far out of proportion to the length of her evidence. We had
a prompt reply from the Commission, and although in their reply they
pretty much denied responsibility for what happened, the next
whistleblower to give evidence, Ken Jurotte, had a much more
reasonable time - half a day of cross-examination following two days
of testimony. And we're delighted to be able to report that baby
Hayes after his shaky start now weighs 2.6 kilos, has done well in
hospital, and should have gone home by the time you read this.