Whistleblower cases of national significance

Four case studies and the argument for the establishment of a Whistleblower Protection Authority



This document is part of a Whistleblowers Australia site

located in the section on Contacts

on Suppression of dissent website.

This brochure contains outlines of the stories of four whistleblowers. They are stories that each have national significance and implications for the enactment and administration of criminal justice legislation in Australia and, in the broader sense, for the very foundations of our society.

Their stories include disclosure of involvement in drug trafficking by Australian law enforcement agencies, deliberate and selective violation of quarantine regulations by Federal Government authorities, a State Government's deliberate neglect of environmental protection regulations in the mining industry, and the concealment and destruction by State Government authorities, including the Cabinet, of public records required for imminent court proceedings.

Each of these cases has been subject to investigation, and each has been certified by an Australian authority as worthy of further investigation.

Each of these cases has been stalled without final resolution or outcome.

In each of these cases, the whistleblower involved has been subjected to harassment vilification, diminished professional status, psychological persecution and/or substantial loss in quality of life.

Each of these cases exemplifies the need, within each jurisdiction within Australia, for a Whistleblower Protection Authority, independent from the government and semigovernment authorities that it may seek to admonish.

We would ask you, as a person who can influence the outcome of this process, to support moves for the establishment of such a body.

Mr Mick Skrijel


Mr Skrijel made disclosures about the illegal importation of heroin in South Australia using fishing vessels. Mr Skrijel, his family and business were subsequently subject to threat and detriment, and Mr Skrijel was wrongfully imprisoned on drug charges. The disclosures made to the court in establishing Mr Skrijel's wrongful imprisonment led to allegations that State and Federal law enforcement agencies were corrupt, and were themselves involved in drug trafficking and the protection of drug trafficking.


Mr Skrijel made his initial disclosures to the South Australian Police and the Costigan Royal Commission. The Victorian Police and the National Crime Authority were involved in the prosecution of Mr Skrijel and the fabrication of evidence that led to his wrongful imprisonment. Those law enforcement agencies charged with responsibility to investigate matters disclosed by Mr Skrijel turned their resources, powers and position of trust to the task of destroying every aspect of Mr Skrijel's life.


The Federal Justice Minister in 1993 appointed Mr Quick QC to investigate the events affecting Mr Skriiel. The Report to the Federal Attorney General by Mr Quick QC, dated 4th April 1995, recommended that a Royal Commission be held into those events.


The protection of whistleblowers can not be entrusted to crime and law enforcement agencies. These agencies are too often captured by those same criminal forces that the agencies are charged to bring to justice. Whistleblowers need their own single purpose authority to protect the whistleblowers, their rights and their interests from wrongful conduct by other authorities.

Contact for further information: Mr David Berthlesen, phone 02 6254 7354 (a/h); email davebert@iprimus.com.au

Mr Bill Toomer


Mr Toomer disclosed information tending to show that particular shipping enterprises were being protected from the application of quarantine regulations by public officers in a Federal Government Department. Mr Toomer's disclosures also alleged victimization by public service authorities, including punitive transfer and psychological and professional vilification by those authorities.


Since 1973, Mr Toomer's disclosures have been investigated by several parliamentary, governmental and public service authorities. Only two public service investigations, in 1973 and 1979, found in Mr Toomer's favour; by contrast, all investigations independent of the federal public service have made recommendations for exoneration, compensation, and/or other actions helpful to Mr Toomer. As early as 1976, the Coombs Royal Commission recommended that an inquiry into the Toomer allegations should be independent of the public service. Even an order for such an investigation by the Prime Minister of Australia was never allowed to be put into effect.


The 1990 Administrative Appeals Tribunal decision, dismissing attacks on Mr Toomer's personality and professional reputation, was preferred by the 1995 Senate Select Committee on Unresolved Whistleblower Cases. The Committee Chair further recommended that consideration be given to compensation to Mr Toomer.


Resolution of whistleblower cases cannot be achieved without remedy. The existence of a power to remedy, and a willingness by an authority to remedy, the damage done to whistleblowers and their families is the necessary prerequisite to comprehensive whistleblower legislation. Culturally, public service authorities have proven themselves steadfast in denying remedy to the reprisals other public service authorities have imposed on their officers. They will protect senior public administrators to the point of thwarting the legislation of the parliaments they serve. A whistleblower protection authority must be independent of the public service, reporting directly to parliament.

Contact for further information: Mr Keith Potter, phone 03 9570 2371; email keithjpotter@bigpond.com

Mr Kevin Lindeberg


Mr Lindeberg disclosed information tending to show that a Queensland State Government Department acted in abuse of its power by refusing to provide to one of its officers access to public records that the Department was required by regulation to so provide. Mr Lindeberg's disclosures further alleged that the Queensland Cabinet had destroyed the same documents in the knowledge that the documents were required by the officer for litigation against the Queensland Government, and did so to prevent their use in court proceedings.


The disclosures were made to Criminal Justice Commission and the Queensland Police Force. Over a six year period, despite claims by the CJC that the disclosures had been investigated "to the nth degree", neither authority detected nor dealt with the prima facie official misconduct and breaches of the Criminal Code identified by a Government investigation conducted in 1996.

The 1999 Forde Inquiry into the multiple incidents of child abuse that were described in the destroyed documents refused to investigate the destruction of the documents that contained much of the evidence of the child abuse.


The Report to the Queensland Cabinet by Messrs Morris QC and Howard, dated 8 Oct 96, recommended that the public interest would be served by a public inquiry into the Lindeberg allegations. The Report questioned the adequacy, competence and independence of the CJC's investigation.


Whistleblowers cannot survive in any administration where investigations into their allegations are denied by destruction or cover-up of the evidence, by inadequacy or incompetence in the investigation, and/or by a lack of independence by the investigating authority.

Contact for further material: Mr Bruce Grundy, phone 07 3376 6718

[The case of the shredding of the Heiner documents.has been brought to light in a series of stories in the Brisbane newspaper The Weekend Independent. Also available are "The R F Greenwood QC submission on the Lindeberg grievance and the Heiner affair." and articles from The Courier-Mail. See also http://www.sjc.uq.edu.au/about_journalism/staff/grundy.htm and scroll down to "Shreddergate".]

Mr Jim Leggate


Mr Leggate disclosed information tending to show that a Queensland State Government Department, charged with the regulation of the mining industry, had adopted a policy of nonenforcement of those regulations. The result was a potential taxpayer bill, in excess of $1 billion, to avoid environmental harm that mining companies were being allowed to impose on Queenslanders. Mr Leggate's disclosures also alleged that a punitive transfer had been imposed on him because of his actions to meet his duties under his public office in accordance with those same regulations.


The disclosures were made to the Criminal Justice Commission, the Queensland Public Service Commission and the Ombudsman. In spite of private sector and public sector denials of the existence of a nonenforcement policy, the CJC found that such a policy did exist. The CJC, however, did not regard the policy as a breach of trust, and would not investigate what the CJC claimed was a matter outside their jurisdiction.


The CJC admission as to the existence of the nonenforcement policy was given to the Connolly-Ryan Inquiry into the CJC. Counsel assisting that inquiry stated that there was prima facie case and a factually sufficient basis to give the CJC jurisdiction to investigate.


Whistleblower protection legislation and procedures must be effective in circumstances where the public sector entity to which the whistleblower belongs is a "rogue" authority, actively coercing its own officers to complicity in the breach of the law. The case of the "rogue" department is at a level of official misconduct that can prove daunting even to authorities charged with the arrest and expulsion of official misconduct, let alone to a single officer whistleblower. Whistleblowers need protection of their profession, career and employment while the authorities take the time to catch their breath at the enormity of the misconduct disclosed.

Contact for further information: Mr Jim Leggate, phone 07 3818 0786

WHISTLEBLOWERS AUSTRALIA urges the relevant parliaments of the Commonwealth, States and Territories of Australia to take the following actions:

Most importantly, we call on parliaments to establish a Whistleblower Protection Authority that


The goal of Whistleblowers Australia (WBA) is to help promote a society in which it is possible to speak out, without reprisal, about corruption, about dangers to the public and the environment, and about other vital social issues, and to help those who speak out in this way to help themselves.

Queensland has a related but independent group, the Whistleblowers Action Group (WAG), that works in close cooperation with WBA.

Established in 1991, WBA encourages self-help and mutual help among whistleblowers, and supports campaigns on specific issues, including free speech for employees, exposure of the use of psychiatric assessments to attack whistleblowers, and promotion of legislation throughout Australia to provide effective protection for whistleblowers.

Members of WBA and WAG include charity workers, church employees, corporate employees, doctors, police, public servants, researchers, teachers and concerned citizens in general.

WBA has a committee or contact in each state plus a national committee. Some of the state committees organise regular meetings for whistleblower self-help and mutual help. The national committee maintains links between state groups, handles memberships and produces a newsletter.

For more information contact:

Whistleblowers Australia
PO Box U129,
Wollongong NSW 2500


Whistleblowers Australia on Brian Martin's site