A Whistleblower’s Guide to Journalists.


Brendan Jones, 2013.


Click here for the Table of Contents


I’m a whistleblower, and I wanted media coverage of my story. But how? When my initial efforts were unsuccessful, I decided to find out more about how the media operate. Here’s what I learned, drawing on contacts with many journalists and whistleblowers, some of whom are quoted here.


For many whistleblowers, the greatest benefit of going to the media is vindication that a journalist looked at their claim independently and found it was true. This is very powerful, since even politicians take their cue from journalists before taking action or asking questions in parliament.[1]


However whistleblowers need to be realistic. Publication won’t put their life back to normal; Abuse against them will continue,[2] and publication only solves a problem 10% of the time.[3]


But the greatest shock to the whistleblower is the discovery that despite the popular image of reporters elbowing each other for scoops, no one will touch their story. It may be too complicated, too difficult to verify, too hot, not significant enough or too old. The biggest problems are lack of time, and that there are far easier stories out there.


Journalists need solid and confirmed leads

The last thing a journalist wants to do is spend time on a story that goes nowhere.


Your story must be solid and confirmed[4], but this isn’t always possible. Corrupt officials tightly control information, so leads can be weak. Fitzgerald inquiry whistleblower Nigel Powell recently said: “Now, what was I saying then – had I actually seen corruption take place? No. Had I had actual evidence of money crossing hands? No. I had my suspicions, which no longer sounds like it would be enough to make a (CMC) complaint.”[5]


To convince a journalist whistleblowers must provide compelling evidence, but that’s hard if they’re inexperienced,[6] and it may expose them to more danger.[7]


Oral evidence or suspicions are only useful if they lead to documentary evidence, but this can be very hard to get.[8] The public service can sit on Freedom of Information requests for years,[9] and public servants who help journalists risk imprisonment.[10] Google is, however, extremely useful. It can reveal a lot about people, identifying potential conflicts of interests through their relationships. It can familiarise you with the law,[11] and even though corrupt officials will hide many documents, they can’t hide all of them. You will be amazed what you can turn up.[12]Find other witnesses, but vet them carefully.[13]


Be warned: journalists cannot tell your story while you have a law suit.[14] Law suits can drag on for years.[15] [16]


Stories must be fresh and interesting (to people besides you)

Stories are best told fresh, so ideally the whistleblower should approach the journalist right after the incident has taken place. However whistleblowers inevitably first try internal complaints units that stonewall complaints[17] and can sit on them for years.[18] Commonwealth whistleblowing laws force public servants to use these.[19] By that time the story has lost its appeal, and is history, not news.


Stories stand the best chance if they are of ‘popular interest.’ Journalist Evan Whitton recommends aiming at the hip pocket nerve:[20] quantify corruption in dollar values, or increased street crime. Stories affecting small groups don’t pass the ‘popular interest’ test, but when a face is put to them can be of human interest.[21] Leslie Cannold says: “Stories move emotion and change things for people in the way that abstract arguments and reason do not.”[22]


Journalist Wendy Bacon says ‘The biggest criterion is probably how closely a story is linked to the news agenda. It is up to the skills of the journalist to find a way to link it with current issues.[23]


Jason Whittaker of Crikey says ‘As much as journalism is a public service, there's no point writing it if nobody reads it. We have to make decisions on what is most interesting and beneficial to readers, but we’re always happy to talk to anyone that has information they believe is in the public interest. Crikey does have a dedicated “tips” section for information that is perhaps not of broad interest but may interest smaller groups’[24]


Too hot to handle

Australia has exceptionally harsh defamation laws. “A lot of work is required to prepare and check articles that are potentially defamatory.”[25] These are difficult stories to write. Eddie Obeid told investigative journalist Kate McClymont: “I tell you what, you put one word out of place and I will take you on again. You are a lowlife. I will go for you, for the jugular.”[26]


Defamation may become an issue later on, but a journalist who says up-front they can’t do your story because of defamation is fobbing you off.[27] Wendy Bacon warns ‘Some journalists may blame defamation for not doing stories when really the problem is lack of time, too busy, lack of sympathetic editorial environment or lack of will to do the hard word necessary. Mostly you can publish something - with some adjustments to get around tricky points.’[28] Evan Whitton agrees “Libel laws can also be an excuse for a reporter’s sloth.”[29]


Although the ‘truth’ is a defence to defamation,[30] law suits are time consuming and expensive to defend.[31] It’s also possible to tell the truth and still lose,[32] so a wealthy or powerful person can shut down a story merely with the threat of a defamation.[33] [34]


This isn’t the case in the US where the Public Figure Doctrine allows journalists to report corruption by public officials in a timely manner. [35] All journalists interviewed for this article support law reform to protect journalists covering public interest stories.


Time and Cost

Wendy Bacon says “The biggest difficulty for the whistleblower is finding a journalist who has the time to do the work. Even with people who can mentally package a large amount of information, you need to have lots of time at a stretch to do complicated stories. This requires a huge amount of focus and there are simply not mainstream employers prepared to do that now, except on the rare occasion. It was always difficult but it was better.”[36]


Sue Spencer says expense does not deter 4 Corners,[37] though they only have a limited number of episodes.


Even if a journalist wants to do a story, their editor or producer must approve it. They will weigh up how much work the story requires, budget, editorial space (a major factor) and what more promising stories the journalist could be working on that better fit the news agenda.[38]


It’s not just a matter of getting a journalist to pick your story. It’s a matter of getting them to pick yours from all the alternatives.


Section 70

Section 70 of the Crimes Act is used to prevent the public from learning about Commonwealth corruption and maladministration.[39] Public servants reporting it to the media risk two years jail. The courts are unsympathetic.[40] [41]


Public servants leaking anonymously can still be caught. I don’t believe anyone acting in the public interest should have to risk jail. Government departments – even Health and Aging – have warrantless access to your communications so corrupt officials and the AFP (who prosecute whistleblowers) can see which journalists you are talking to. [42] Phones can be tapped.[43]


Journalists can make it safer for whistleblowers by offering anti-spying technology such as Strongbox[44] or PGP encrypted e-mail[45]. Whistleblower Edward Snowden said “It should be clear that unencrypted journalist-source communication is unforgivably reckless.”[46] [47]


Sue Spencer says Section 70 and risk of defamation can cause 4 Corners to not proceed with stories.[48]


Section 137

Section 137 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to supply false and misleading information to a public official.[49] Don’t fall into the trap of denying a question they already know an answer too. See a lawyer first.


What to look for in a journalist

Only deal with experienced investigative journalists with demonstrable track records.[50]


Look at their stories and at other stories in their publication.[51] Avoid journalists who have ridiculed[52] or lumped whistleblowers in with the corrupt officials they are reporting.[53] Beware some will take digs at whistleblowers to “balance” their articles.”[54] Avoid those who largely echo reports from institutions without adequately questioning statements or assumptions.[55] Do not assume a journalist is trustworthy just because they present well on TV or radio.[56]


Andrew Hooley warns “Avoid ‘hack’ journalists who publish often and without substance as they go after the easy grab story irrespective of the potential damage.”[57]


Avoid ‘daily’ journalists expected to produce articles quickly with very little research. They don’t have the time, experience or editorial support to do an in-depth story.[58] These include most journalists in TV news and current affairs.[59]


Avoid ‘beat’ journalists too. They focus on a particular sector or institution, building a network of people to provide them with a steady flow of information so they can publish frequently.


Favours such as tips or an exclusive interview can create a strong sense of mutual obligation in a journalist. [60] Just meeting a man, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries can disincline a journalist from publishing information which could destroy his career, or even just make him cross.[61]


A reporter who relies on a source for easy information must look the other way when the source is involved in dubious practices.[62] Evan Whitton calls such a journalist ‘a prisoner of the source’ which is why for example ‘investigative reporting into police has got to be done from outside traditional police reporting.’ [63] [64]


It’s worth noting that the story of endemic corruption within the Commonwealth Public Service was not broken by a Canberra journalist, but by an investigative journalist in Sydney.[65]


Although the government publicly attacked the credibility of his reports, there was no follow-up nor support from Canberra-based journalists. Labor Minister for the Public Service Gary Gray appeared to drive a wedge when he said: “This week The Canberra Times referred to a number of allegations about fraud, corruption and misconduct in the public service, which were previously reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. The Canberra Times rightly pointed out that there is no evidence of endemic corruption, or a culture of complacency, in the APS [Australian Public Service]. Correctly, The Canberra Times argued that sufficient anti-corruption systems exist and acknowledged that there is no need for an independent corruption commission like those that exist in New South Wales and Western Australia.” [66] [67]


Steve Davies of Ozloop says: “I am perplexed at the degree of passive reporting by The Canberra Times. In my opinion, much reporting is effectively a rehash of the APS ‘party line’. The media needs to understand criticising the public service is not the same as criticising the government. Self-censorship damages all these institutions.”[68] [69]  [70]


Don’t fixate on TV. Often newspaper is a better medium.[71]


Journalists don’t share information, so speak to all reputable investigative journalists to touch base and see if anyone is already on the story.[72] Given a choice, choose the journalist with the most drive.[73] Be aware that they will drop the story if their initial sniffing doesn’t quickly bear fruit. If they drop the story, they will not tell you.[74] Once a journalist looks at a story, however briefly, they won’t look at it again, even if new evidence emerges.[75]


Andrew Hooley of Victims of CSIRO says “Always choose a journalist who has a reputation as an outstanding person in their field as they have far more regard for their reputation and will be more professional in their approach to the story.”[76]


Talking to journalists

Time is valuable to investigative journalists. Get straight to the point.


Position your message to slot into the journalist’s mind.[77] Evan Whitton says “Reduce what you want to tell the reporter to three or four words, as on a huge billboard on the side of the road.”[78]


Write a summary of your story in no more than 400 words.[79] Condense that into one or two sentences. The latter becomes what business people describe as your ‘elevator pitch.’[80] Write a separate chronology describing very briefly what happened on what date.[81] Organise your documentation.[82]


It’s best to make initial contact via a short phone call.[83] If you e-mail, keep it short; your elevator pitch. Don’t attach any documents or letters. This is counterintuitive, but the more documentation you send, the less likely they will do your story.[84] They will only reply if they’re interested. If they don’t, look elsewhere.[85]


Think carefully about what you want to achieve from approaching a journalist.[86] When you talk keep your answers brief. If you can’t make a point in 15 to 30 seconds, you risk losing them. Long explanations can’t be communicated to the public anyway. Avoid jargon.[87] Don’t pile documents on them, or set them reading assignments. They’ll simply decide your story is too much work.[88]


Describe what the corrupt officials have done. There’s no need for name-calling.[89] Andrew Hooley advises ‘Always be impartial, emotionally detached in interviews as emotional comments often come across as ‘this person is obsessed’ and discredit you. One of the fastest ways to shut down a whistleblower is to attack their personal interests, so always refer to the issue at the centre rather than “me.”’


Don’t exaggerate or hide anything; make sure the journalist knows all relevant information.[90] Don’t get sidetracked by themes not relevant to the story, such as politics or chit-chat. Don’t harp on or repeat themes the journalist shows no interest in; they will see you as a time-waster.[91]


Investigative journalists will initially talk to you “off the record” to rapidly cover the entire subject without you needing to “lawyer” every sentence.[92] Before the story runs they will ask you for quotes.[93] Beware of disreputable journalists who encourage you to talk “off the record,” then quote you anyway.[94]


Whistleblower Dr. Kim Sawyer advises “Try to ‘control’ the story as much as possible, and that includes the headline. The headline and first two paragraphs are key.”[95]


Anticipate the likely response to the allegations and prep the journalist beforehand.[96] When the story is published take the day off to monitor it and rebut counterclaims in real-time.[97] Use Twitter.[98]


A journalist who has promised to investigate your story will ask for exclusivity. Give it, but beware it may encourage them to sit on a story in the hope it writes itself.[99] The false reassurance of imminent publication can lure a whistleblower to put in more work and expose themselves to more danger to get the story over the line. The best guide is, if the journalist isn’t asking questions, they’re not working on it. Put the hard word on them, and if you don’t hear back (or if you do but nothing still happens), look elsewhere.[100]


Some journalists, despite having evidence, will sit on stories indefinitely. There is no point pushing a reluctant journalist to do a story. Look elsewhere.[101]



Although you’ve done nothing wrong, the reality is if you are publicly identified you will be harmed.[102] Blow the whistle anonymously, as should the sources backing your story.[103] However journalists prefer to name their sources, so you must explain to them your reasons for anonymity.[104] Reputable journalists will protect your identify. Andrew Hooley warns ‘Disreputable journalists will not, since they never expect to contact you again after the initial story has run.’ Unfortunately you might still be exposed by an accidental leak[105] or because it’s obvious from the story who you are.[106]


Other Avenues

Often you will find still no journalist will cover your story. What then?


While a story carried by a major newspaper will be seen by more people, smaller publications read by officials’ peers can be more effective: Andrew Hooley said “Getting our story printed in Nature magazine created far more of a reaction from CSIRO than even material published in the Canberra Times or Sydney Morning Herald.” Likewise Crikey is reportedly the most widely read publication in Parliament House. My own article in Crikey elicited a response from an Attorney-General who had until then ignored me.[107]


Wendy Bacon says: ‘If you can’t find an experienced journalist, look for a highly-motivated final year student or recent graduate who can arrange mentoring through their university. Universities do some very good investigative journalism, but you need access to experience.’[108]


Consider writing your own story (as Allan Kessing did for Crikey)[109] or your own opinion piece (as I did for Crikey). The most important skill here is to write efficiently; take that 12 page letter and reduce it to 800 words. Write tightly and don’t repeat anything. The shorter something is, the more people will see and read it. [110] Watch the News Agenda for openings.[111]


Consider the independent media, but choose a publication which does investigative reporting, not just political or social commentary.[112]


Consider publishing on your own website or blog. [113] These are never as popular as media web sites, but they attract others whose stories may lead to media coverage. This strategy has worked very well for Victims of CSIRO whose website has had 50,000 unique visits[114] and united one hundred victims.[115]


Read up on defamation law.[116] Be warned that Ozloop, Victims of CSIRO and Victims of DSTO have all found that departments regularly scan their websites.[117]


Sending private letters of complaint to officials is useful because it documents they knew of and permitted corruption, but without publicity they will ignore you. US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said sunlight is the best disinfectant. Use widely-distributed public open letters cast their deeds into full view. Find other interested parties on Google and copy them on your letters.[118]


The Limits of your Relationship

Journalists can publish your story, but they can’t protect you from ongoing harm, advocate for you or give advice.


Wendy Bacon says ‘Whistleblowers need good legal and non-legal community support more than they need journalists. They need people to support and advise them even through the ordeal of trying to deal with the media.’


Unfortunately that leaves nobody. Whistleblowers Australia is poorly resourced,[119] and very few lawyers give whistleblowers advice pro bono.[120] To get specific advice the whistleblower must pay a lawyer $230-$500 per hour to read all their material. (Something that may change this are US-style False Claims laws which give lawyers a financial incentive to help whistleblowers.)


Journalist Michael West warns “Lawyers are never better partners unless pro bono. They tell the client not to contact media because media can resolve the thing more efficiently, but lawyers’ business model is to ensure a protracted dispute.”[121] A lawyer warned: “The only people who win out of these things are the lawyers.”[122]


Dr. Kim Sawyer warns: “Consider the risks. Approaching a journalist is risky. Be prepared for the negative perceptions of an article. Most readers do not identify with the issue, only the scandal. Most journalists do not understand corruption, the long-term effects or the correlation across the various types of corruption. They are not interested in systemic issues, only the short-term story.”[123]



Only deal with experienced investigative journalists with demonstrable track records. Write up your story in 400 words or less. Don’t waste a journalist’s time. Understand most stories are rejected,[124] and that even if a story is published the abuse and the problem will most likely continue.


Thanks to all those who contributed to this article, with special thanks to Andrew Hooley and Wendy Bacon.


Recommended Reading

“Courage without martyrdom: A survival guide for whistleblowers” by Tom Devine.

This is a US book, but pages 84-94 contain good general information about working with the media. Available for free download via:  http://fairwhistleblower.ca/books/books.html  


More information

A version of this article is available online, with over 100 footnotes containing sources and additional comment. See http://www.bmartin.cc/dissent/documents/Jones13.html


A printable PDF version (without footnotes) is available here: http://www.bmartin.cc/dissent/documents/Jones13.pdf


Brendan Jones may be contacted via e-mail: bjones.public@gmail.com



Table of Contents


Journalists need solid and confirmed leads

Stories must be fresh and interesting (to people besides you)

Too hot to handle

Talking to journalists


Other Avenues

The Limits of your Relationship


Recommended Reading

More information




[1] Hypothesis: This was something Wendy Bacon and I talked about; That although politicians have parliamentary privilege they can use to ask questions in Parliament, they don’t want to risk their credibility by asking questions that turn out to be bogus or lead no where. Conversely journalists are protected from defamation if they wait for a politician to first ask the question in parliament. This could be a vicious circle, and the fact journalists ‘wait for a politician to open the door’ may itself be an argument for Public Figure Doctrine.


Talking to one political staffer after the Gordon Gretch “Utegate” incident, they told me “I don’t know you from a bar of soap.” They told me being in opposition they lacked the resources to look into the matter themselves, so referred me to a particular investigative journalist instead (who lacked the time).


Even though I offered the Greens evidence backing up their own concerns about Labor’s new whistleblowing laws, they didn’t appear to take me seriously. Recently in an exchange with a Greens Senator I asked: “I'm confused as to why the Greens didn't use any of the information I provided them with to support their case that MPs should not be exempted under the legislation. Perhaps because you haven't seen my story in the press you don't know what to make of it, and are concerned I might be Gordon Gretch 2.0?” Wendy told me that was an interesting observation, and that getting something up in “news format” would “make it real”


[2] “Courage without martyrdom: A survival guide for whistleblowers,” Tom Devine. http://fairwhistleblower.ca/books/books.html

I (recall) one of the examples in this(?) book concerned an IRS whistleblower. Even though a politician warned her superiors not to take actions against her, they couldn’t help themselves and did anyway. The politician intervened and sacked her superiors. This is a very rare outcome. Far more typical is this: “Jayant Patel whistleblower ‘treated like a leper’ by Queensland Health”, Hedley Thomas, The Australian, December 16, 2011. “The senior nurse who put her career on the line to expose killer surgeon Jayant Patel in one of Australia's worst medical disasters revealed yesterday how Queensland Health and the Bligh government had treated her "like a leper" since she blew the whistle. Toni Hoffman told The Australian that her career, health and psychiatric wellbeing were now severely affected because bureaucrats and successive ministers caused her to be increasingly shunned and ostracised in the six years since the debacle was exposed. She said doctors who resented her for raising the alarm about a fellow clinician had undermined and ridiculed her.” http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/investigations/patel-whistleblower-treated-like-a-leper-by-queensland-health/story-fn6tcs23-1226223423898


[3] Wahl-Jorgensen, K., and Hunt, J. (2012). “Journalism as a watchdog and the possibilities for structural critique: A case study of coverage of whistleblowing. Journalism”, 13(4), 399-416.

When a whistleblower decides to pursue the external route, they suggest, only one in ten cases is typically solved, and there are frequently significant negative percussions for the whistleblower” (van Es and Smit, 2003: 144).”  http://tinyurl.com/mljdajg


[4] Communication: Sue Spencer, Executive Producer, 4 Corners, ABC.


[5] “Moonlight rising: Fitzgerald whistleblower questions reforms”, Amy Remeikis, Brisbane Times, July 5, 2013. Mr. Powell was actually talking about new laws which threaten imprisonment against people who make complaints to the CMC that don’t pan out (or can’t be proven!) A similar flaw with the Commonwealth’s new whistleblowing laws threaten whistleblowers with a costs order which may bankrupt them. Mr. Powell makes the point that it is very hard to deliver a lead which is ‘solid and confirmed.’ This was in fact why he approached the media, but one must question if today’s media wouldn’t turn him away for offering such a ‘weak’ lead: “… Decades ago, Mr Powell said he took his information to the media because he had lost faith in the official body which was meant to investigate claims like his. He says now, if in the same position as then, he would feel he would have to do the same thing. “You will have an official body saying, 'you better be pretty sure of what you got, because if we find you are vexatious and you don't have a firm basis for what you are saying, then you could be prosecuted',” he said. “Now, what was I saying then – had I actually seen corruption take place? No. “Had I had actual evidence of money crossing hands? No. I had my suspicions, which no longer sounds like it would be enough to make a complaint. “So I would be in exactly the same position, I wouldn't be going to the official body I should be going to, I would be going to the media. So, how much further forward are we now, after all the reforms?”” http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/moonlight-rising-fitzgerald-whistleblower-questions-reforms-20130704-2pf0w.html


[6] Personal Observations: In hindsight this can seem obvious, but to a naïve whistleblower this can be extremely difficult and, unless the whistleblower is willing to invest several years of their life, impossible.


[7] “Deadly Disclosures: Whistle Blowing and the Ethical Meltdown of Australia” William De Maria. “The trouble whistleblowers get into after they make primary disclosures of wrongdoing is compounded, and often (as Skrijel's case) eclipsed, but the trouble that accrues to them after secondary disclosures are made. It is one thing to say to an agency such as the Australian Federal Police (AFP) 'Look at the wrongdoing over here. Please do something about it.' (primary disclosure). It is entirely different to say, 'You've had my disclosure for five years now, which have you not acted? I am going to report this' (secondary disclosure). Secondary disclosures about investigative probity and competence can be more dangerous to whistleblowers than the original disclosure of wrongdoing because they bring the game right up to those who took the primary disclosures in the first place. In response, agencies often become negative, defensive, and in some cases hostile and even violent. Soon the primary disclosure becomes a mere footnote.” I myself was threatened by the AFP after writing to Labor Minister for Justice Jason Clare on March 12, 2012 asking “On August 22, 2011 I made a Crime Report to the AFP regarding a number of breaches of the Criminal Code Act 1995 by employees of the Department of Defence. Could you please explain why the AFP has not responded or even acknowledged receipt of this Crime Report?”


[8] “Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the ‘pathetic’ American media”, Lisa O'Carroll, The Guardian, 27 September 2013. Hersh points out that other whistleblowers had come forward warning the public was under surveillance, but the difference was that Snowden had documentary evidence. Hersh on Snowden: “Editors love documents. Chicken-shit editors who wouldn't touch stories like that, they love documents, so he changed the whole ball game.” Hersh on his own reporting: “I went five months looking for a document, because without a document, there's nothing there, it doesn't go anywhere.”



[9] “One man's cry for freedom disappears into a black pit”, Michael West, SMH, May 5, 2012.

Over the past nine years, 800 million people have been born into the world, YouTube and Facebook were invented and the Iraq War passed into history, but Will Matthews, an actuary from East Brighton in Melbourne, is still waiting for his freedom-of-information request to be processed. ... Matthews lodged his fateful request with the corporate regulator in October 2003. By 2007 he found himself in a legal showdown more redolent of the High Court than the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The AAT is the place where one goes when one has exhausted every other avenue. (You would expect after this story broke the minister kicked some heads and Mr. Matthews got his request. Unfortunately I am informed that Mr. Matthews is, in fact, still battling it out before the AAT.) http://www.smh.com.au/business/one-mans-cry-for-freedom-disappears-into-a-black-pit-20120504-1y441.html


[10] 2013-08-29(31)(5) Open Letter from Brendan Jones to Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick.

“You justified the threat of 2 years imprisonment for whistleblowers (whom you call “leakers”) by claiming government confidentiality is necessary to preserve the “relationship of trust that must exist between ministers and APS.” You did not tell your audience how Section 70 has been used to conceal APS corruption and maladministration, which is most definitely not in the public interest.”



[11] Personal Observation: Internal complaints units, the AFP and corrupt officials will lie to you about the law, so they don’t have to enforce it. When they make decisions, they don’t tell you what laws or procedures they applied to arrive at those (so you can’t check for yourself). Instead they’ll just say an internal review found all relevant laws and procedures have been complied with. Lawyers won’t check these for you pro bono; You have to look them up yourself: http://austlii.edu.au Although Austlii can show you the law, to learn about it I also suggest turning to American Law Schools, many of whom freely put their lectures online. Clearly a lot of the law is different, but often those differences are self-evident (and you can check), and many of the principles are the same as both the US and Australia share the same Common Law legal system. Australian Law Schools on the other hand are unhelpful; They do not make information available to the public.


[12] Personal Observations.


[13] Personal Observations: I have on occasion been approached by people seemingly too good to be true, who later turned out to have a hidden agenda. On one occasion an individual claimed they were ‘in desperate need of brave journalists, none seem willing’ to tell their story. I made inquiries for them, only to learn they already had good media exposure (more than I had), and were just looking for more. There are desperate people out there with complaints – valid or not – who look for anyone to come forward who could advance their own. It’s important to realise everyone has an angle.


Some very good advice from Andrew Hooley was “Be very careful whose wagon you hitch to.” Don’t expect them to respect your confidences, so be careful what you say in e-mails to them. Don’t comment on another person’s case unless you have (very unlikely) taken the time to fully understand it; You may end up harming your own credibility (your most valuable asset). Another ploy is for someone to tell you they want to speak to ‘your’ journalist about information they have supporting your story, when they really want to promote their own agenda. The answer to all this is to vet them carefully; Check out their information carefully to have before passing it on. If they won’t show you, assume they have nothing; The risk outweighs the potential gains. Giving bogus leads risks your own credibility, and robs a journalist of their most precious resource: Time!


Most people are reluctant to speak to journalists, so (this can be dangerous) consider approaching them yourself to ask if they might speak to a journalist. It saves the journalist time and the disappointment if they decline, and may make them more likely to be receptive. It’s important to offer them confidentiality. If they are concerned about being identified, consider using trusted intermediary between the source and journalist. Sometimes it is better to let a journalist approach a source directly. Once a journalist is on a story, you can ask them which approach they prefer on a source-by-source basis.


Even so it’s hard to know how a particular individual will react when asked to speak to a journalist. Some are stoic. Others panic, or clam up. Beware that a source might agree to talk to the journalist, only to then distance themselves or run interference.


Once you have properly vetted a source, they can be a great ally. Networks of whistleblowers and victims of abuse can be very effective at tackling systemic government corruption; more effective than police, public officials, academics, lawyers, committees or most journalists. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh says journalists need to get back to being outsiders. Whistleblowers are high-motivated and, by definition, already outsiders.


[14] Personal Observation. This forms a trap which victims of government abuse seem to fall into: file a law suit, discover because of that no journalist will touch it, and then find the government protracts litigation, keeping it out of the public domain for years. If the case is settled, the details are kept confidential; Perhaps newsworthy, but hardly interesting.


Restrictions on Court Reporting by Journalists
What follows are the difficulties journalists face in covering matters before the court. While it’s possible, it seems so constrained it doesn’t seem worth it. In any case, why scoop the courts? If they wait for the court findings then they can report the matter “post-investigation” without any fear of defamation.


“Contempt & court reporting in Australia”, The News Manual.
Five main dangers … The five main areas where journalists are likely to run the risk of committing contempt are: 1. Publishing matter likely to prejudice a fair trial … Whenever there is a big trial, reporters gather together details of the defendant's past life and other background information, ready to publish them at the end of the trial. Once the trial is over, and is no longer sub judice, then all this material can be reported. However, if any of it is published during the trial it may be held to prejudice a fair trial. … 2. Interfering with the course of justice … When a big crime has been committed, journalists want to interview anyone who saw it happen in order to be able to report the story. That is perfectly all right. The problem arises later, because those people may also be the witnesses in the court case. … As soon as a person has been arrested or charged in connection with the crime, no potential witness should be approached for an interview. The reason for this is that witnesses may later change their evidence in court to fit in with what they have told reporters. … 3. Scandalising the court … However, great care must always be taken in the way in which the courts' decisions are criticised. Anything reported which is likely to lower the authority of the court or bring it into public derision and contempt may be held to scandalise the court . … the suggestion that a judge deliberately made an unjust decision, or that he was biased, or drunk, or incapable of carrying out his job, would be held to scandalise the court. 4. Refusing to name a source of information … The law recognises that certain people - such as priests, lawyers and doctors - have professional ethics which prevent them revealing information they have gained in confidence, but the law does not recognise the journalist as having a similar professional demand. The situation is quite clear. If a you refuse to name your source of information, when asked to do so by a court or a commission of inquiry, you will be in contempt of court and must expect to be sent to jail. … 5. Taking photos or making electronic recordings within the court precincts.

Australian Government: “Report Of The Independent Inquiry Into The Media And Media Regulation By The Hon R Finkelstein QC Assisted By Prof M Ricketson - Report To The Minister For Broadband, Communications And The Digital Economy.” 28 February 2012: “In the United States, free speech is given primacy among rights, and therefore the potential harm caused by restrictions on speech is thought to outweigh the potential harm caused by speech that is not restricted. In Australia free speech does not necessarily have the same primacy. For example, in Australia great weight is given to preventing prejudice to a fair trial, so restrictions are placed on what the media can publish about matters that are sub judice. The United States strikes this balance differently.” http://www.dbcde.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/146994/Report-of-the-Independent-Inquiry-into-the-Media-and-Media-Regulation-web.pdf


In my opinion, Free Speech should have primacy. Howard Whitton said: ‘Systemic corruption is corrupt conduct which undermines a system which is put in place to ensure integrity. … Systemic corruption is real in Australia, and I think that ICAC has demonstrated that it is very widespread.’ I believe a reason for this is the inability of the Australian press to report corruption in a timely manner.


The Hon R Finkelstein QC uses “fair trial” to argue against Free Speech, in much the same way that Senator the Hon Bob Carr used cigarette advertising near schools to argue against Free Speech. In my opinion, both their arguments are spurious. http://victimsofdsto.com/psc


The “prejudice a fair trial” argument is based on the assumption that even factual evidence should be concealed from a jury because they aren’t “smart enough” to interpret it. For example, juries aren’t told about prior convictions. Likewise concealing suspects’ evidence, hearsay, patterns, precedent, the so-called ‘right to silence’ (which Justice Marks discovered was based on a lie) and allowing the judge to conceal any or all evidence which the judge believes might predispose the jury to (wait for it…) find the defendant guilty. As Evan Whitton says, “A jury is only as good as the evidence put before it.”
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/counterpoint/whats-wrong-with-the-legal-system/3043802#transcript http://netk.net.au/Whitton/OCLS.pdf http://netk.net.au/Whitton/Cartel18.asp


e.g. “The Cartel: Lawyers and Their Nine Magic Tricks,” 1998, ISBN: 0646348876.
Probative means tending to prove (the charge). The Christie discretion gives a judge power to conceal evidence if, in his opinion it is factually only slightly probative, but it may cause great prejudice against the accused in the minds of jurors of allegedly feeble intelligence and sense of fairness.”


I believe the public are capable of weighing that evidence on their own, without a judge and defence lawyers concealing it from them. By comparison under the European truth-seeking system of justice no evidence is hidden. All the facts are laid in plain view. “Justice means fairness, and fairness requires a search for the truth otherwise the wrong side might win.”


In any case, Americans have the same Adversarial system of law we do, and they are able to strike a balance between free speech. Is The Hon R Finkelstein arguing that Americans don’t get fair trials? The entire “prejudice a fair trial” argument is a furphy, as is the oxymoron of a “fair trial” where evidence is concealed. http://victimsofdsto.com/online/ http://victimsofdsto.com/psc http://netk.net.au/Whitton/OCLS.pdf


Restrictions on Scrutiny and Criticism of the Courts
I’m uncomfortable with the role of the Australian courts towards free speech. Instead of protecting free speech as the American courts do, the Australian courts have progressively limited it. I note that “Anything reported which is likely to lower the authority of the court or bring it into public derision and contempt may be held to scandalise the court” and that anyone expressing such views can be fined or jailed. I cringe whenever I read about these issues, because the writer inevitably prefixes what they say with some fawning forelock-tugging statement.


Yet Chief Justice Bathurst of the NSW Supreme Court said there is a crisis of confidence in the justice system, and that “Only 35 per cent of us have confidence in our criminal justice system”. However he blames this on “misinformation that is propagated by sections of the media who prefer to inflame rather than inform, and by politics that encourages fear mongering rather than educated debate.”


But how can the public talk about failings of the justice system if we must write with the fear that if we put a word wrong we can be hauled off to jail? I’ve noticed when Evan Whitton talks about “corrupt judges” he adds the qualifier “if such exist.” http://netk.net.au/Whitton/TBV04.asp


The same applies to Australia’s Sedition laws which make it an offence to “to urge disaffection against the following: (i) the Constitution; (ii) the Government of the Commonwealth; (iii) either House of the Parliament.” This could be used to conceivably pick up any citizen who has criticised federal politicians or the public service. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_sedition_law


And while you might hope these type of laws only exist on paper and are never actually used, look what happened to Albert Langer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Langer.


Officers of the court may argue allowing criticism of them would challenge the courts authority and promote social disorder. But 2/3 of the population have already lost their faith in the courts ability to administer criminal justice. And the courts have so priced themselves out of the market that most people have no access to the civil justice system. This was allowed by no less a person than an Attorney-General; the nation’s top legal officer. Further Lawyers (“officers of the court”) are permitted to abuse members of the public in full view of their so-called professional and regulatory bodies (e.g. the ACT Law Society and QLD Legal Services Commission).


This creates an environment where the public must look for true justice through other means. I myself would have found far better justice had I simply gone to the alleged perpetrator’s house with a piece of 2 by 4, which would have been a very effective deterrent to his colleagues. And I’m not alone. A study found even Australian lawyers and judges whose children had been sexually violated would not subject them to cross-examination, used by officers of the court to bully victims and at committal – unseen by a jury – to intimidate them into dropping the charges.


I recall the seeing the original 4 Corners in which Barrister Russell Clutterbuck (who in my opinion, aggressively) cross-examined (I presume I am not allowed to say ‘attacked’) a boy who five years old had been raped by a man, the boy emerging from his bedroom crying with semen dripping from his anus. Yet if anyone were to say they “objected to Mr. Clutterbuck’s lack of moral concern” he could sue them for defamation and would win e.g. $100,000 (Bickel v. Roberts). Further although the News Manual claims the courts can be criticised for “bad decisions”, in “The Rising Culture of Suppression” newspaper editor Michael Stutchbury described how a magistrate accused of being too soft on criminals won a law suit against a journalist who had to pay the magistrate $246,500 for defamation (c.f. contempt of court).

Why should the public be expected under threat of fine or imprisonment to respect an institution which treats victims so badly while protecting paedophiles, rapists, murderers (not to mention corrupt officials, and corrupt lawyers?)


But the public are almost completely ignorant of this because reporting of matters before the court and criticism of the courts is so restricted. I recently learned of a case where a barrister spent a year preparing for a pro bono case against the ATO but terrified abruptly dropped it two days before negotiations as he was allegedly threatened with a heavy ATO tax audit. Journalists know about this, but dare not print it.


In a democracy institutions are supposed to be accountable to the people; not the other way around. Voltaire said: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.” Institutions should earn respect through the merit of their actions; Not by threat of imprisonment for anyone who dares to criticise them.


The people through parliament should force the courts to bear full scrutiny and criticism. Because Americans understand the value of free speech to a democracy, I once again turn to a US Supreme Court Justice: “If the broad light of day could be let in upon men's actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects.”


Could I be charged with contempt of court for this footnote? As John Harkins’ fictional lawyer said, “If I knew that, I should be a judge. They never tell us till it's too late.”


[15] “Long fight for Voyager survivors”, Nicola Berkovic, The Australian. October 5, 2007.

“More than 43 years have passed since Australia's worst peacetime naval disaster, but survivors of the crash between HMAS Melbourne and HMAS Voyager are still fighting the Government for compensation.” http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/long-fight-for-voyager-survivors/story-e6frg97x-1111114571636


[16] “Last HMAS Voyager claim settled, 45 years on,” Geoff Strong, The Age. July 17, 2009



[17] “Bucking the system: Andrew Wilkie and the difficult task of the whistleblower”, Brian Martin, Overland, No. 180, Spring 2005, pp. 45-48. “In the largest study of whistleblowers in Australia, William De Maria found that they reported being helped by an official body in less than one out of ten approaches, and in many cases they were worse off. Yet most whistleblowers believe that justice is to be found somewhere in the system, so they make a submission to an agency, wait months or years and then, when the result is negative, go on to another agency. This is an ideal way to reduce outrage from the injustice being done, because the official bodies give the appearance, though seldom the substance, of dispensing justice.” http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/05overland.html


“Edward Snowden: US would have buried NSA warnings forever,” Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, October 18, 2013. “Whistleblower says he shared information with media because he could not trust internal reporting mechanisms ... "The system does not work," he said, pointing to the paradox that "you have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it." ... "If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all, secret powers become tremendously dangerous." http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/18/edward-snowden-us-would-have-buried-nsa-warnings-forever


[18] “You better be careful blowing the whistle — new laws have holes”, Brendan Jones, Jul 30, 2013.
“The government can sit on a complaint indefinitely during which time the whistleblower is vulnerable to retribution and cannot talk to the media.” http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/07/30/you-better-be-careful-blowing-the-whistle-new-laws-have-holes/ Note: Rebuttal to Labor Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC’s response appears in the comments.


[19] 2013-08-29(31)(5) Open Letter from Brendan Jones to Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick http://victimsofdsto.com/psc


[20] Communication.


[21] “Tips of the trainer - Human Interest Stories”. Press Gazette, January 7, 2004: “A human interest story is a feature story that discusses a person or people in an emotional way.” (e.g. triumph over adversity, bravery, compassion, unsung heroes, victims.)  http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/node/28528


‘Human Interest’ is remarkably popular. Consider novels are (albeit fictional) ‘human interest’ stories. However the subject needs to be someone the reader can identify with or empathise with. Put simply, it’s easier if they are likeable.


The ‘public interest’ aspect of a whistleblower’s story should be its strongest suit, but “whistleblowing is also a subject with great human interest: people relate to the heroic efforts of ordinary employees striving to do the right thing and protect the public interest. Whistleblowers can also provide shocking insights into the ‘dark side’ of our institutions: the systemic wrongdoing and incompetence that thrives wherever there is inadequate transparency and accountability.” http://fairwhistleblower.ca/news/media_resources.html


A lot of this comes down to the (story telling) skills of a journalist: An outstanding journalist should be able to take any story and make it interesting to their readership. (However that doesn’t mean they have to tell every story bought to them.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narrative_journalism


Stories of ‘personal interest’ (e.g. bullying) are only considered newsworthy if there is a human interest or overlapping public interest aspect (e.g. the scale of the bullying at the CSIRO). However to do a human interest story, you must be willing to give up your anonymity.


[22] Communication


[23] Communication. The News Agenda is a list, drawn up by the editor, of stories to be followed that day


[24] Communication


[25] “Defamation and the Australian media: a case study”, Brian Martin, October 1997.
“Australian defamation law is extremely harsh and hence a major obstacle to free speech. For example, a reviewer of a book about uranium stated "I object to the author's lack of moral concern." The author sued and won more than $100,000. Exposure of corruption is very difficult. Sir Robert Askin was premier of New South Wales -- equivalent to the governor of a U.S. state -- for a decade and widely rumoured to be involved in organized crime. The threat of defamation suits kept the media muzzled until Askin died in 1981. /// First, defamation law can have significant effects on what is published. Some stories are never written because they are too hot. Others, including mine, are written in a cautious fashion to avoid defamation. Finally, articles are checked by defamation specialists and either approved, modified or pulled. Few readers are aware of these complex processes that shape what they read or hear. // Second, if I had known far more about the cases I could have avoided some of the alterations. Of course it is always possible to know more, but there is a limit. Attaining truly in-depth knowledge of just a single case is a major task. // Third, a lot of work is required to prepare and check articles that are potentially defamatory. Knowing the hazards, I did lots of preparatory reading, wrote very carefully and checked some points with knowledgeable people. Some of this work is desirable if it substantially improves accuracy. But another effect is to discourage writers and publishers from dealing with topics that are potentially defamatory.” http://www.bmartin.cc/dissent/documents/Martin_def.html


[26] “Where angels fear to tread”, Kate McClymont, SMH, May 4, 2013.
“Investigative journalists don't do their job for glory - they do it to uncover corruption and those who profit from it.” http://www.smh.com.au/comment/where-angels-fear-to-tread-20130503-2iy8a.html


[27] “Unreliable” on the other hand means they want harder evidence.


[28] Communication


[29] Communication


[30] 2013-04-24(29) Open Letter by Brendan Jones to the Australian High-Tech Community.
“Even if what they print is true, trials are still lengthy and costly. Some cases have cost up to $7M and others have run for 13 years. Sir Leslie Thiess sued Channel 9 who alleged he was corrupt. Channel 9 won proving 67 out of 70 of the corruption allegations against him were true, but the trial cost them $5M they didn’t get back. // The Courier Mail’s Phil Dickie and ABC’s Chris Masters broke the story on endemic corruption in the Queensland government. That led to a Royal Commission with many police and politicians going to jail. Chris Masters and the ABC then spent the next 13 years in court fighting Defamation suits. They won, twice, but it cost them $1M in legal costs. To this day the ABC will not release the transcript of the TV broadcast for fear of further defamation actions 27 years after it happened.” http://victimsofdsto.com/online


[31] “The rising culture of suppression”, Michael Stutchbury, Crikey, Jun 9, 2002.


“Britain’s Muzzled Press”, Myles Harris, The American Spectator, July-August 2013.
Although this article is about Britain, British libel laws have much in common with Australia’s:

“In Britain, a defamation action could cost up to 140 times more than one in any other European state. Defendants had to settle or risk an action involving court costs in excess of $150,000 and, potentially, unlimited damages. Moreover unlike in America, British libel law places the onus of proof on the defendant, not the plaintiff. While national newspapers with pockets as deep as the Grand Canyon were willing to take on such a burden, practically anybody else who lived by the pen lived in terror of a writ. A single case could be sufficient to close a local newspaper or propel an individual into bankruptcy.




[32] “ Libel law based on lies distributes cash to liars,” Evan Whitton, Justinian, November 17, 2004.
Geoffrey Robertson QC wrote in The Justice Game: ‘London is the libel capital of the world because English law heavily favours plaintiffs … So there have been celebrated cases where newspapers have published the truth, yet lost.’ Sydney cannot be far behind. John Wicklein, reported in the Columbia Journalism Review (November/December 1991): By a recent count, 142 defamation actions against newspapers, most of them filed by politicians and businessmen, were pending in Sydney, which has been called the libel capital of the world. This is nearly twice the libel suits filed in the entire United States in any one year. http://netk.net.au/Whitton/OCLS.pdf  


[33] “Information liberation: Challenging the corruptions of information power”, Brian Martin, London: Freedom Press, 1998. ISBN 0 900384 93 X. “In the late 1970s, fisherman Mick Skrijel spoke out about drug-running in South Australia. Afterwards, he and his family suffered a series of attacks. The National Crime Authority (NCA) investigated Skrijel's allegations but in 1985 ended up charging Skrijel for various offences. Skrijel went to jail but was later freed and his sentence set aside. In 1993, the federal government asked David Quick QC to review the case; Quick recommended calling a royal commission into the NCA, but Duncan Kerr, federal Minister for Justice, declined to do so. Skrijel prepared a leaflet about the issue and distributed it in Kerr's electorate in Tasmania during the 1996 election campaign. Kerr wrote to the Tasmanian media saying he would not sue Skrijel but that he would sue any media outlet that repeated Skrijel's "false and defamatory allegations." The story was reported in the Financial Review but the Tasmanian media kept quiet. Skrijel's view is that most media wouldn't have published much on his case no matter what and that defamation law provides a convenient excuse for media not to publish.” http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/98il/ilall.html


[34] “Where angels fear to tread”, Kate McClymont, SMH, May 4, 2013.
“Chris Masters said “"Journalists and broadcasters are just not going to do stories when defamation proceedings become as arduous and lengthy as this one was."


[35] 2013-04-24(29) Open Letter by Brendan Jones to the Australian High-Tech Community. http://victimsofdsto.com/online


[36] Communication


[37] Communication


[38] Communication: Wendy Bacon.

Personal Observation: It also depends on the will of the newspaper editor. If it wasn’t for Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, the NSA Snowden revelations may have never become known to the public:


Freedom of Information”, Ken Auletta October 7, 2013
“He has a really useful piece of equipment that most editors don’t have, which is a spinal column”


Other editors sit on hot stories:


“How the Washington Post Lost the PRISM Exclusive,” Abby Ohlheiser, June 9, 2013.

“according to one of the reporters by-lined on the Washington Post's PRISM story, the exclusive was theirs to lose: it was offered to them first. … “I told him we would not make any guarantee about what we published or when. … ” Shortly afterward [Snowden] made contact with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper the Guardian.” http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/06/how-washington-post-lost-prism-exclusive/66048/


“At the Times, a Scoop Deferred”, Staff Writer, Washington Post, Saturday, December 17, 2005.

“The New York Times' revelation yesterday that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct domestic eavesdropping raised eyebrows in political and media circles, for both its stunning disclosures and the circumstances of its publication. // In an unusual note, the Times said in its story that it held off publishing the 3,600-word article for a year after the newspaper's representatives met with White House officials. It said the White House had asked the paper not to publish the story at all, "arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny." // The Times said it agreed to remove information that administration officials said could be "useful" to terrorists and delayed publication for a year "to conduct additional reporting." // The paper offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster. // The decision to withhold the article caused some friction within the Times' Washington bureau, according to people close to the paper.



“Glenn Greenwald tore into the New York Times' Bill Keller on Monday over his comments about Greenwald's NSA stories,” Katherine Fung, Huffington Post, September 9, 2013. [New York Times editor] Bill Keller is the strangest person to use as a journalism expert given that he's responsible for one of the worst journalistic disgraces of the last decade at least: suppressing the Risen/Lichtblau NSA story for a full 15 months - through Bush's reelection - because the Bush White House told him to conceal it, and then finally publishing it only because Risen was about to break the story in his book and the NYT did not want to get scooped by their own reporter on a story they were suppressing …  Greenwald has criticized Keller in the past, notably for the Times' approach to WikiLeaks and stance on the term "torture."” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/30/glenn-greenwald-new-york-times-bill-keller_n_4016617.html


The Guardian (a British paper) nevertheless partnered with The New York Times because Americans have First Amendment rights to free speech. British (and Australians) only have limited free speech rights. http://victimsofdsto.com/online/#freespeech


“Guardian partners with New York Times over Snowden GCHQ files,” Lisa O'Carroll, The Guardian, August 24, 2013. “Journalists in America are protected by the first amendment which guarantees free speech and in practice prevents the state seeking pre-publication injunctions or "prior restraint". It is intended that the collaboration with the New York Times will allow the Guardian to continue exposing mass surveillance by putting the Snowden documents on GCHQ beyond government reach. Snowden is aware of the arrangement. The collaboration echoes that of the partnership forged in 2010 between the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel in relation to WikiLeaks's release of US military and diplomatic documents.



“Editors on the NSA files: 'What the Guardian is doing is important for democracy'”, The Guardian, Friday 11 October 2013. “In a democracy, the press plays a vital role in informing the public and holding those in power accountable” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/10/guardian-democracy-editors


It would be an interesting statistical study to determine how often and why the Australian media self-censors, or otherwise passes on public interest stories they believe to be true. Likewise what happens to the leads they are given.


[39] 2013-08-29(31)(5) Open Letter from Brendan Jones to Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick http://victimsofdsto.com/psc


[40] 2013-04-24(29) Open Letter by Brendan Jones to the Australian High-Tech Community. http://victimsofdsto.com/online


[41] Peter Lowe, Allan Kessing’s Barrister: “The trial judge took the view that there was no whistleblower defence open on the evidence. That is that there was … the disclosure of the reports could not possibly be in the public interest. That view literally means that the public has no general right to know about airline security issues of that criminal conduct has been disclosed as part of the investigation carried out by Allan (Kessing) in his report. Consequently, that there was also no public interest, or no entitlement of the public to know, that the customs Service had sat on this information for two… more than two years, and they were only prompted to do anything after the disclosure of the reports.” SBS Insight Program, ‘Strictly Confidential Information: Secrecy and Government’, 2007-09-27.


[42] “Be careful, she might hear you”, Philip Dorling, SMH, September 25, 2012. “Australian law enforcement and government agencies are also accessing vast troves of phone and internet data without warrant. Indeed, they did so more than 250,000 times during criminal and revenue investigations in 2010-11. Comparative statistics suggest this is a far greater level of telecommunications data access than that undertaken in the US, Britain or Canada. Data accessed includes phone and internet account information, outwards and inwards call details, internet access, and details of websites visited, though not the actual content of communications.” http://www.theage.com.au/technology/technology-news/be-careful-she-might-hear-you-20120924-26h6r.html


“The Australian Government Snoop Patrol: Once Every Two Minutes, 24/7, Anyone’s Data,” Powerhouse, The Global Mail, June 19, 2013.
“Somewhere in Australia, a government bureaucrat – no-one especially senior; say, a Centrelink agent – fills in a form, gets a signature from someone else in the department, and becomes authorised to check out a member of the public’s phone records (which numbers that person has called, how long they spoke, and where they were when they placed the call), and then their email history (who they’ve emailed, and when, and the IP addresses used). No warrant required, no notice given. // It’s all legal – and has been happening since 2007. // In fact it happened more than 300,000 times in 2011-12. It may have happened to you – and in most cases, you wouldn’t know.


Security Expert Bruce Schneier says of the government’s claim they’re only keeping ‘metadata’: ‘Imagine you hired a detective to eavesdrop on someone. He might plant a bug in their office. He might tap their phone. That's the data. Now imagine you hired that same detective to surveil that person. The result would be details of what he did: where he went, who he talked to, what he looked at, what he purchased — how he spent his day. That's all metadata. When the government collects metadata on the entire country, they put everyone under surveillance. Metadata equals surveillance; it's that simple.’ https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/09/metadata_equals.html


[43] “When Secrets Aren’t Safe With Journalists”, Christopher Soghoian, New York Times, 2011-10- 26, Few journalists use secure-communication tools, even ones that are widely available and easy to use. Government officials often attempt to get journalists to reveal their sources by obtaining subpoenas and compelling testimony and the required telecommunications records. But sometimes that’s not even necessary, because sources have already been exposed by their own lax communications. And then there is illicit monitoring — I believe that American journalists should assume that their communications are being monitored by their government — and possibly other governments as well.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/opinion/without-computer-security-sources-secrets-arent-safe-with-journalists.html?_r=0


[44] “Strongbox: The New Yorker Launches Online Drop Box For Anonymous Sources”, Ryan W. Neal,

International Business Times, May 16, 2013. “The New Yorker launched Wednesday Strongbox, an online drop box designed for sources to anonymously submit tips, messages and files to editors at the venerable magazine.” http://www.ibtimes.com/strongbox-new-yorker-launches-online-drop-box-anonymous-sources-1264707


Strongbox is based on Dead Drop, available here: http://deaddrop.github.io/ Dead Drop was created by Hacktivist Aaron Swartz who committed suicide after allegedly being harassed by malicious government prosecutors. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jameszirin/2013/03/29/aaron-swartz-suicide-forces-hard-questions-about-the-criminal-justice-system/


[45] “Revealed: how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security,” James Ball,
Julian Borger and Glenn Greenwald, Guardian Weekly, Friday 6 September 2013, “NSA and GCHQ unlock encryption used to protect emails, banking and medical records … The Guardian has previously reported that Microsoft co-operated with the NSA to circumvent encryption on the Outlook.com email and chat services.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/05/nsa-gchq-encryption-codes-security


“How to keep the NSA out of your email,” Stilgherrian, Crikey, Jun 12, 2013. “What can you do to avoid the all-seeing eyes of the National Security Agency? Here are some tips, but the real answer is: not a whole lot.” http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/06/12/how-to-keep-the-nsa-out-of-your-email


[46] “All Journalists Should Use This Annoying Technology to Prevent Spying,” Adrian Chen, Gawker, 2013-08-13. “Snowden stressed to the Times in an (encrypted) interview the importance of encryption for journalists: "It should be clear that unencrypted journalist-source communication is unforgivably reckless."” http://gawker.com/all-journalists-should-use-this-annoying-technology-to-1125021151


[47] “Secrets, lies and perils of a whistleblower”, Philip Dorling, The Age, February 18, 2012.

“Examination of footage of leaked intelligence reports on the ABC 7.30 Report and an ABC Four Corners documentary in February 2000 "suggested that the leaks had come from electronic documents rather than from hard copy." Some 21,600 persons worldwide - less than half of whom, 9600, were actually in Australia - had electronic access to the documents.


A massive data crunching exercise followed, involving access to the telephone call records of nearly 14,000 telephone services totalling more than 77,000 phone calls. Most of these numbers were the phones of Defence personnel with access to the leaked documents. However, the fishing expedition, using information obtained without warrant from telecommunication service providers, included call records of more than 130 private subscribers and in some cases internet usage and mobile phone location data.


Eventually, using new Watson analytic software, the investigation team targeted "a small group of individuals". ... The AFP report states, "The accumulation of circumstantial evidence pointed to Philip Dorling receiving the classified documents, either electronically from email transmissions sent by [redacted]… The destination of the emails was believed to be either Philip Dorling's work computer in Parliament House, or his home computer." // The joint investigation team wanted to tap my telephone, but lacked the legal power to do so. In December 1999, at a meeting attended by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the investigators asked whether ASIO could obtain a warrant to intercept "certain telephone services at Parliament House''. The ASIO representatives said no and sent a report to ASIO Director-General Dennis Richardson who wrote: "It is important that the AFP and Defence understand that, unless there is relevance to our functions under the [ASIO] Act, we cannot engage in such activity." // Apparently lacking access to the content of telephone calls or internet activity, the investigators turned to other sources of information.


Four months later there was the dawn knock on my door and Federal Agent Catherine Castles announced that she had a warrant to search the premises. ACT magistrate Peter Dingwall had apparently been persuaded that the crown jewels of Australian intelligence were somewhere in my home, but the efforts of the AFP and Defence Security officers came to nothing. // That same morning AFP agents also raided the home of a friend, Captain Clinton Fernandes, an army intelligence officer based in Sydney. // Unlike Fernandes,  I declined to be interviewed and I won't be drawn on the source or sources of the leaks. However, I did learn some years ago that the investigators believed they were hunting a person with “a strong sense of injustice about developments in East Timor”. That is certainly an inference that could be drawn.


In the end, the East Timor leak investigation came to nothing. The ''highly protected'' AFP report on operations Keeve and Arbite was consigned to the archives, and Australia's Bradley Manning remains at large, a rare case of a whistleblower avoiding retribution. // But the risks are clear - for journalists and for covert sources. In an electronic age there are no fingerprints easier to find than electronic fingerprints. And as the circumstances of Bradley Manning show, the potential consequences for those who blow the whistle can be grave indeed.”




[48] Communication.


[49] Criminal Code Act 1995. http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/cca1995115/sch1.html


[50] Communication: Journalist. In theory a non-investigative junior journalist should have more drive, but they’re inexperienced and won’t have the time or editorial support that investigative journalists have.


[51] How independent is the media of business and political interests?


“Can we trust the media?”, Kellie Tranter, July 28, 2013.
In a survey conducted by Roy Morgan research in August 2004, 73 per cent of journalists surveyed said that media proprietors use their outlets to “push their own business and or political interests to influence the national debate”. // A 2006 Roy Morgan survey of journalists found that more than half claimed they were unable to be critical of the media organisation they worked for, 38 per cent reported they had been instructed to comply with the commercial position of the company for which they worked and 32 per cent said they felt obliged to take into account the political views of their proprietor.


“Over half your news is spin”, Crikey, Mar 15, 2010. “after analysing a five-day working week in the media, across 10 hard-copy papers, ACIJ and Crikey found that nearly 55% of stories analysed were driven by some form of public relations. The Daily Telegraph came out on top of the league ladder with 70% of stories analysed triggered by public relations. The Sydney Morning Herald gets the wooden spoon with (only) 42% PR-driven stories for that week.”


A controversial ad (because it criticised News Ltd and/or showed a man scooping up dog excrement with a newspaper) was banned by all of Australia’s commercial TV networks:


“Anti-Murdoch ad banned from television”, Michael Lallo, The Age, September 3, 2013.
Australia's commercial TV networks have banned an advertisement that criticises the anti-Labor coverage of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers.http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/antimurdoch-ad-banned-from-television-20130903-2t37c.html


“Why we were banned”, Get Up, September, 2013.
Channel 10 said outright on the phone that they wouldn't run the ad because it criticises another
media outlet.


However Fairfax did run an investigative series critical of a (presumably) major advertiser: “CBA covered up misconduct by rogue financial planner,” Adele Ferguson, Chris Vedelago, SMH, June 01 2013. “The country's biggest bank, Commonwealth Bank, concealed financial improprieties by one of its top financial planners who controlled an estimated $300 million in investments on behalf of 1300 clients, many of them retired and with serious health issues.” http://www.smh.com.au/business/cba-covered-up-misconduct-by-rogue-financial-planner-20130531-2nh9x.html


It’s alarming only one newspaper in the entire country reported the Duncan Kerr / Mick Skrijel incident. What if the AFR didn’t cover it? It’s an important public interest story conspicuously absent from nearly every paper in the country. http://pastebin.com/tD8Vd6Vd


The best guide for a whistleblower is to assess existing coverage of similar stories in the publication, and in particular by that journalist, for independence, particularly regarding that institution.


[52] Case: I will only describe this case here in general terms. A person who approached a journalist with a story (personal interest but with some corruption) ended up being ridiculed by the journalist who ignored the corruption to concentrate on the more titillating aspects of their story. The word in the whistleblowing community the word is that this journalist should not be trusted, and that such journalists give the profession a bad name. When I interviewed non-journalists for this article, many raised this case.


[53] Communication: Dr. Kim Sawyer. Case.


[54] Case: I discussed this with a person who said although the digs stung, they were fair, they accepted the need for the journalist to show balance, and were still very happy with their work. However that a person acting in the public interest could still be publicly criticised, even mildly, might lead them to ask why they should bother doing it at all.


[55] [Tom Devine] pp. 83


[56] Communication: The difference between people’s public persona (particularly politicians, TV / radio journalists and newspaper columnists) and what they’re like in real life is quite amazing. Many high-profile journalists are in fact ‘beat’ reporters with no interest whatsoever in corruption.


[57] Communication.


[58] Communication.


[59] The exception being 4 Corners. Lateline does some investigative reporting, though has very limited time to prepare stories. I did approach ACA, 60 Minutes, Today Tonight, the 7:30 Report and Lateline for this article. None responded. The journalists' union (The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance) declined. Despite The Guardian UK's excellent record on investigative journalism, The Guardian Australia declined to contribute without giving a reason. News Ltd did offer to contribute, though for whatever reason ultimately did not. Of the journalists approached at Fairfax, only Michael West responded. 4 Corners and Crikey did respond, as did all but one of the independent journalists approached.


[60] “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, Dr Robert B. Cialdini, 2006. ISBN-10: 006124189X.


[61] “What Happens to Whistleblowers, and Why”, Jean Lennane. The author describes how social proximity compromises the ability of a watchdog. “… The Fitzgerald Inquiry in Queensland was an honourable exception to this. I attended the inquiry one afternoon while Jack Herbert (the bagman [carrier of illegal takings]) was giving evidence, describing how the system had worked and giving an impression of harmless and sometimes humorous normality. It was a very seductive account, which was brought back to reality at fairly regular intervals by the Commissioner asking a question that firmly and politely reminded him and the court that be was a self-confessed crook, and what he was talking about so glibly and pleasantly was a serious crime.” http://www.socialmedicine.info/index.php/socialmedicine/article/download/583/1242


[62] Communication: Evan Whitton.


[63] “Journalism: Print, Politics and Popular Culture,” Curthoys and Schultz, UQ Press, 1999.
“Evan Whitton ... believes that corrupt police made a conscious decision to get the press on side. // The corrupt police make it their business to supply the people at the sharp end of crime reporting with a very good service. If you have got those guys [on side] they become a prisoner of the source and never drop [the corrupt police] in it. So you've virtually wiped out any investigation if you have got to the guy who is the crime-roundsman. [Investigative reporting into police] has got to be done from outside traditional police reporting. The roundsmen cannot do it. // Whitton attributes part of his success in breaking the mould to the fact that he had not been trained as a reporter and had not adopted the bad habits of police roundspeople. // I always thought that the best training I ever had was doing a couple of university subject in history.... you've got to footnote everything in history essays, so it teaches you a bit of rigour and interest in facts and patterns of events. I applied that at the Melbourne Truth.”


[64] “Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the ‘pathetic’ American media”, Lisa O’Carroll, The Guardian, 27 September 2013. “Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.” http://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2013/sep/27/seymour-hersh-obama-nsa-american-media 


[65] “Public service keeps fraud cases private”, 2011-09-24, SMH, Linton Besser,
A code of silence surrounds graft accusations in Canberra.”


[66] “A more restive watchdog needed,” Jack Waterford, Editor at large, Canberra Times. 2011-10-04. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/editorial/a-more-restive-watchdog-needed-20111004-1v5td.html


[67] The Hon Gary Gray, AO MP Special Minister of State, and Special Minister of State for Public Service and Integrity. http://www.smos.gov.au/publications/2011/pu_071011.html


[68] Communication: Evan Whitton.


[69] “Broadsheet fail: editorial crimes at The Canberra Times”, Geoffrey Barker, May 02, 2013.

Instead readers of The Canberra Times are fed a daily diet of public relations puffery crafted to promote vested local interests prepared to advertise in the newspaper. Readers are offered little serious independent investigative reporting on national or local issues apart from the monthly public sector report, which is the newspaper’s only saving grace. Any limited investigative reporting seems to originate in other Fairfax newspapers, notably The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. // Many book reviews are taken from The Herald these days. News coverage of local politics is timid, with little deep examination of Canberra’s equally unattractive and provincial government and opposition politicians; the local economy is reported largely from the perspective of the chamber of commerce and the real estate industry; crime coverage seems largely restricted to reporting the scanty information handed to passive reporters by a secretive police force.” http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/05/02/broadsheet-fail-editorial-crimes-at-the-canberra-times


[70] Personal Observation: I contacted The Canberra Times on August 22, 2011; September 22, 2011;
May 7, 2013 and September 5, 2013 offering documentary evidence of misconduct and criminality within the Department of Defence and by two Labor ministers which the AFP and Commonwealth oversight agencies refused to act on. The Canberra Times never showed any interest whatsoever in any of these.


[71] Communication: Sue Spencer, Marni Cordell, Wendy Bacon.


[72] Personal Observation: Once a journalist starts working on a story they don’t tell any other journalists, but they will first ask the whistleblower to confirm no one else is already working on it. That isn't to say other reputable journalists can't know about it; You will probably have to talk to several of them before you find one willing to work on the story in any case. But reputable journalists don’t poach stories; The amount of work that investigative journalism requires, the number of other stories they can choose from and the damage to a journalist’s reputation are all deterrents.


A major mistake some whistleblowers have made is only telling one media organisation, who ultimately decide to sit on the story. Later other media organisations who (unknown to them) also try are frustrated at the lack of a “second source” to verify the story. Even when they're aware of this, journalists in different media organisations will not share information. One journalist said “It's nothing personal. That's just the way the business works.” But consider the irony: A media organisation would rather corruption not be reported, than have a rival media organisation break a story they passed on. It's important for whistleblowers to realise that journalism is a competitive business, and that in itself can kill a story. By speaking to as many reputable journalists as possible, the whistleblower ensures that even if the story isn't covered immediately, it might still come out later when others come forward.


[73] Personal Observations: Journalists are more likely to pursue a story if it aligns with their own interests, beliefs and experiences. You are best off choosing such a journalist.


There is a school of thought that journalists should be dispassionate, but there are many threats and obstacles to publishing a story about corruption. A passionate journalist is more likely to persist:


“Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the ‘pathetic’ American media”, Lisa O'Carroll, The Guardian, 27 September 2013. “I went five months looking for a document, because without a document, there's nothing there, it doesn't go anywhere.”



Journalist Glenn Greenwald argues what’s important is whether or not their information is reliable:

“Glenn Greenwald tore into the New York Times' Bill Keller on Monday over his comments about Greenwald's NSA stories,” Katherine Fung, Huffington Post, September 9, 2013. “In a New Yorker profile of the Guardian's recent scoops, [New York Times editor] Keller praised the British newspaper [The Guardian] for breaking NSA revelations. The former executive editor of the Times also, however, criticized the Guardian for allowing Greenwald, an opinion columnist, to write the news stories. // "If one of our columnists had come up with a story of that magnitude — something that could not be contained in a column — we would have turned it over to the newsroom reporting staff," Keller told the New Yorker's Ken Auletta. He added that the Times would have noted that the columnist obtained the documents, but other staffers would have written the story. // Greenwald responded in the New Yorker piece, saying, "That to me is a really good reason why people like Edward Snowden don't want to go to the New York Times. This idea that if you ever express an opinion in your life about the news topic on which you're reporting, that somehow that makes you not a real journalist — that you wouldn't be able to write the story." The only thing that matters, he said, is "if your reporting is reliable."



[74] Personal Observations: 15% of the time they drop it outright and explain why (though if they claim defamation, it’s a polite way of saying ‘no’). 45% of the time they drop it and not say anything, presumably because they’re too busy, dread telling you or don't feel a need to. 40% they decide to work on more promising stories, in which case they haven’t technically dropped it (because they might come back to it), but practically the story will likely die through starvation for attention and by becoming stale. // It’s up to you as the whistleblower to follow-up and find out where they are. Ideally the journalist would tell you what additional info they need and send you off to find it, but practically that’s not what happens. You have to work that out yourself, or better yet find a journalist willing to work with you to develop the story. // The above figures don’t include the many journalists or publications who didn’t respond at all.


[75] Personal Observations.


[76] Communication: Andrew Hooley.


[77] “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.” Al Ries, Jack Trout. McGraw-Hill, 2000. ISBN: 0071373586.
This advertising text has insightful information on how to get your message across. “Our extravagant use of communication to solve a host of business and social problems has so jammed our channels that only a tiny fraction of all messages actually get through and once a mind is made up, it's almost impossible to change it. Certainly not with a weak force like advertising. // The average person can tolerate being told something which he or she knows nothing about. (Which is why "news" is an effective advertising approach.) But the average person cannot tolerate being told he or she is wrong. Mind-changing is the road to advertising disaster. // The only defense a person has in our over-communicated society is an oversimplified mind. // Let's say you are meeting with a politician whom you are trying to get elected. In the first five minutes, you'll learn more about your political product than the average voter is going to learn in the next five years. // Since so little material about your candidate is ever going to get into the mind of the voter, your job is really not a "communication" project in the ordinary meaning of the word. // It's a selection project. You have to select the material that has the best chance of getting through. // You look for the solution to your problem not inside the product, not even inside your own mind. You look for the solution to your problem inside the prospect's mind. // In other words, since so little of your message is going to get through anyway, you ignore the sending side and concentrate on the receiving end. You concentrate on the perceptions of the prospect. Not the reality of the product. // "In politics," says John Lindsay, "the perception is the reality." So, too, in advertising, in business and in life. // Truth is irrelevant. What matters are the perceptions that exist in the mind. The essence of positioning thinking is to accept the perceptions as reality and then restructure those perceptions to create the position you desire. // By turning the process around, by focusing on the prospect rather than the product, you simplify the selection process. You also learn principles and concepts that can greatly increase your communication effectiveness.


[78] Communication: Evan Whitton.


[79] Communication: Richard Ackland. He suggested this with regards to seeking pro bono help, but it was transformative. My complaint involved a vast amount of information which was difficult to explain. Compressing all that information into 400 words was extremely difficult, but having done it I found I was able to communicate concisely. It made a huge difference in my ability to engage people.


[80] Literally ‘elevator pitch’ means you have 30 seconds in an elevator with an influential investor to make your pitch. If you can’t get them interested in that time, you’ve lost your chance for all time.


[81] Communication: Dr. Kim Sawyer. Personal Observation: Journalists (and lawyers) often ask for a chronology. However don’t deliver your summary as a chronology. These ramble. [Tom Devine]: Instead, begin with the bottom line.


[82] Google Drive is a very good way to share your documents with journalists. Unfortunately you must assume that anything you place there can be accessed by (possibly corrupt) government officials.


“How To Get Out Of PRISM and Avoid NSA Spying.” Mike Wheatley, Silicon Angle, 2013-06-12. “If you need to use cloud storage, you can do away with Google Drive and Dropbox, and instead use a service like Kim Dotcom’s Mega, Ubuntu One, or Sparkleshare. Alternatively, if you absolutely must use Dropbox, you can use a tool like Cloudfogger in conjunction with it to encrypt all your documents before uploading them.http://siliconangle.com/blog/2013/06/12/how-to-get-out-of-prism-and-avoid-nsa-spying/


PRSIM Break: “Opt out of global data surveillance programs like PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora. Stop governments from spying on you by encrypting your communications and ending your reliance on proprietary services.” http://prism-break.org/


“This Online Survival Kit offers practical tools, advice and techniques that teach you how to circumvent censorship and to secure your communications and data.” https://www.wefightcensorship.org/online-survival-kithtml.html


Keep in mind the NSA PRISM program likely violates the 4th Amendment of the Constitution and may ultimately be struck down by the US Supreme Court for that reason:


“The Court Overseeing NSA Spying Has Already Found It Violated The Constitution” Michael Kelley, Business Insider, 11 June 2013. http://www.businessinsider.com.au/nsa-spying-violated-the-constituion-2013-6


“ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of NSA Phone Spying Program”, ACLU, June 11, 2013. https://www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-files-lawsuit-challenging-constitutionality-nsa-phone-spying-program


Australians on the other hand have no such protection: Concealing improperly gained evidence ... British judges tend to let the evidence in if it is reliable. Australian judges have been supposed to let the evidence in since Bunning v Cross (High Court, 1978), if it is reliable and if the investigators’ misbehaviour is less vile than the crime alleged. A similar rule applies in Canada.” The US on the other hand has the 4th Amendment. [Evan Whitton, “Our Corrupt Legal System,” pp. 191-192 ] http://netk.net.au/Whitton/OCLS.pdf


[83] [Tom Devine pp. 89] “… avoid rambling or taking too long to get to the heart of your story. Try not to tell a story in excessive detail. A good rule is to limit introductory summaries to a minute in a phone call, and to ten minutes in a meeting with a reporter. The conversations can go on much longer, but your prepared summary should not.” I’d argue even ten minutes is too long.


[84] Personal Observations. Even once they are working on the story, don’t bog them down with documentation or copy them on e-mails to others. It’ll only convince them the story is too much work. Stick to only the information that is necessary for them to do their story (quickly).


[85] Personal Observations: Most journalists won’t respond at all. If they respond only with “Thank you,” I take that to mean they’re not interested doing a story, but don’t mind you keeping them up to date on developments (e.g. out of personal interest, or just as general background information to their writings). I’ve never had such journalists turn around and tell me they’ve changed their mind and want to do the story, but they do occasionally send me a bit of useful information or some advice. // However if a journalist doesn’t reply at all, chasing them is a waste of time. I have never seen a single instance where such a journalist, when followed-up, showed interest. Don’t waste your time. Look elsewhere.


[86] Communication: Dr. Kim Sawyer. Personal Observation: If you ramble with no idea where you are heading, you will lose them.


[87] [Tom Devine pp. 92]


[88] Personal Observations. This can be hard for the whistleblower (or victim of government abuse) to understand; They believe they have an incredible story, so why wouldn’t the journalist read everything? Quite simply, they don't have time. I only truly appreciated this myself when several people e-mailed me large documents about their own cases/causes they expected me to read, even though I wasn't sure it would be particularly useful or relevant. Likewise an editor won’t give a journalist a week or even a couple of days to read documents unless they’re damned sure they’ll get a story out of it. And even if they do, without the background there’s a real risk they’ll overlook something which could come back to haunt them. This is why a whistleblower must sell a journalist on the story before they start handing over documents. And once they start, they should still only hand over what is essential for them to write the story. It is important for the whistleblower to realise it is a journalist’s job to report on a subject; not to become an expert in the field in their own right, or to become an expert on your complaint. Less is more.


[89] Case: I am aware of one case where a whistleblower didn’t realise their name-calling was backfiring. They thought they were scoring points, and didn’t realise it was allowing their detractors to paint them as over-emotional. ‘All things being equal, the calmest person in the room is usually the most credible.’ If what the official has done is bad enough, then let their deeds hang them; No need to call them names. Dale Carnegie also said it’s far more powerful to let another person form a conclusion in their own mind than it is to force your own opinion upon them. // In other cases people have blogged that abusing public officials (e.g. name calling via letter or blog) have resulted in the AFP paying them a visit. Abuse of a public official can be a breach of the Criminal Code.


[90] Logical deduction: If you hide something then you lose credibility when it ultimately comes out. If the journalist doesn’t find out by themselves, then the bad guys will certainly let them know. [Tom Devine] If you exaggerate something slightly, say 110%, then when that 10% is shown false, the journalist will rightly question that you may have exaggerated any of the 100% part as well.


[91] Personal Observation: I’ve seen this, but don’t think people who do it realise it makes journalists reluctant to talk to them, or that the reporter has them on the clock. Advice here is ‘Stay on Target.’ Also resist the urge, having got the journalists attention, to start pitching other stories. Instead of seeing many little stories, they will look at it as one big story that will be too much work. Focus only on the story that got their attention. You can pitch other stories after that has run.


[92] “Off the record” comments can still be reported! [Tom Devine pp. 85] “Always specify the terms of your communication with the reporter. Be clear about whether or not you are speaking "on the record. "If so, the reporter can identify you by name and position in the government or industry. If you choose to speak "on the record," be sure to make it clear that you are speaking only for yourself and, and not as a representative of your government agency or company. You can decide to speak "off the record," which means that the reporter cannot use your name, but can [still] characterise your position (for example, a quality engineer in the MX program). Unless you are very careful, such characterizations can be revealing to those people who may try to identify the source of the leak. You should come to a mutual agreement on such characterisations in advance.” Be very clear with the journalist what they can report - on and off-the-record - and what they can't, and how they can identify you, if at all.


[93] Personal Observation.


[94] Communication: Andrew Hooley.


[95] Communication.


[96] Communication: Andrew Hooley.


[97] Personal Observation. My Crikey Op was on the front page for two(?) days. The Attorney-General posted a weak response. I would have preferred to have taken my time to research and write a rebuttal, but the story was about to drop off the front page so I had to work quickly. But because I had footnoted nearly every sentence in the draft sent to Crikey, it was very easy to back up my claims. And if I hadn’t responded quickly (before it dropped off the front page), then Labor Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC would have had the last word. Other victims and victims’ advocates were all online and greatly helped in checking my rebuttal and making their own contributions. I suspect a standard tactic for responding to negative media coverage may be for the government to issue a (false) statement debunking the claim, and then hope the whistleblower’s rebuttal isn’t heard.


[98] “How can you protect a whistleblower? Use Twitter.”, Suzanne Smith, ABC, 2012-11-19.

“When critics tried to discredit abuse whistleblower Peter Fox, he turned to social media. The anti-Fox campaign didn't stand a chance.”


[99] Personal Observation: Having staked their claim to exclusivity, a journalist can sit back and wait for the whistleblower and events (e.g. court action) to advance the story without needing to invest any of their own time. [Tom Devine. pp. 87]: “This is useful for you, because the reporter will have the motivation to work harder on it. But it can also backfire. The reporter may think because s/he "owns" the story, there is unlimited time to work on it. Meanwhile your whistleblowing initiative can wither on the vine or be overtaken by events.” The paradox is the whistleblower can be under considerable stress waiting for the story to run, but the journalist is better off the longer they wait (e.g. for new events to firm up the story).


[100] Personal Observations. [Tom Devine]. Agree to an (extendible) deadline with a journalist.


[101] Personal Observation: Having looked at my evidence, Editor Marni Cordell told me she couldn’t understand why a particular well-respected journalist who looked at my story years ago didn’t publish it, because they already had everything they needed. Obviously they’re entitled to run what they want to run and obviously have their reasons and you must respect those; Perhaps lack of time, waiting for more witnesses to come forward, or not wanting to risk their credibility (which, if the allegations are serious enough, will come under attack by); This journalist had tried to investigate prior leads but had encountered serious stonewalling. There is no penalty for a journalist passing on a scoop, but running a story that turns out to be false can end their career. (Consider veteran US journalist Dan Rather’s long career ended unceremoniously after he was set up with false documents http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killian_documents_controversy).

It's entirely reasonable for a journalist to be sceptical of their sources, but corrupt officials are hardly going to give the journalist notarised confessions. If the journalist is too sceptical, they will never print anything. It’s also possible there is some cognitive dissonance at play. Journalists can sit on stories for many, many years; They sat on stories of NSW Premier Robert Askin’s corruption until he was dead. (And in 2004 Phillip Ruddock proposed changing the law to let the estates of dead people sue for defamation too http://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/news/defamation-remains-not-for-the-dead. Fortunately Ruddock's proposal never passed into law, because if it had then such corruption would be forever hidden.) Whatever the case it makes the point it’s not a matter of picking a journalist and piling them with evidence until they tip over and run the story. They will never run it, so it’s better to look elsewhere.

[102] Personal Observations. [Tom Devine. pp 7] A warning to would-be whistleblowers:

“We want you to be prepared. As a result, we do not mince words in describing the possible costs of your decision to blow the whistle. // You will almost surely suffer some level of retribution or harassment for living the values of a public servant [ed: American terminology]. You may not believe your employer is your adversary, but the record shows that employers often do not want to be told what is wrong with their operations. Frequently they greet the bad news by trying to silence the messenger - to avoid any bad publicity, cost overruns, liability, or simply to prolong the benefits of the misconduct. It is not uncommon for whistleblowers to be harassed, socially ostracized, or even fired from their jobs; some are professionally destroyed. Those who aren't fired may find themselves deprived of meaningful work. // You must also take a realistic and pragmatic view of the law, and the degree to which you will be legally protected ... All too often, however, employees who choose to exercise these rights find that their rights exist on paper only. Federal employees often are confined to defending their rights before administrative judges who lack the bureaucratic independence to rule against powerful interests without risking reprisal themselves.” That is from an American text and compared to Australia, America has much stronger whistleblowing laws, free speech protections and many civil rights lawyers. In Australia we don’t. Don’t believe assurances from the government, the trade unions, academics, certain journalists(!) or oversight agencies promising you will be protected if you come forward. You won’t be:


Not withstanding Section 137 (described elsewhere in this Article), a Queensland Police Sergeant told me they advise the public to always deny speaking to the police; If you admit it, criminals will not respect you for your ‘honesty and openness.’


[103] Personal Observations. [Tom Devine]. Sue Spencer of 4 Corners also says: “What we are finding increasingly with 4 corners, is that key insiders will only talk to us under condition of anonymity.”


[104] Australian Journalist’s Code of Ethics: “Aim to attribute information to its source. Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source's motives and any alternative attributable source. Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances.”


[105] “The man who outed the "RAR Buddies"”, March 1, 2012, David Ellery.

“The ABC [7.30 Report] blew Dr Wadham’s cover by featuring images of a letter he had written to the Defence Minister in the original broadcast which was then uploaded to its website. While he was not named, there are clear references to Flinders University, its school of education and the whistleblower's previous military service.”


Journalists need to stop displaying leaked letters or documents. Even partially obscured, they can give the whistleblower away. They are the first thing whistleblower hunters look at:


“Secrets, lies and perils of a whistleblower”, Philip Dorling, The Age, February 18, 2012. “Examination of footage of leaked intelligence reports on the ABC 7.30 Report and an ABC Four Corners documentary in February 2000 "suggested that the leaks had come from electronic documents rather than from hard copy."” http://www.theage.com.au/national/secrets-lies-and-perils-of-a-whistleblower-20120217-1tecx.html


I’m not aware of any cases where a journalist has deliberately leaked a whistleblower’s identity, but in America the mainstream media have been unsympathetic towards whistleblowers. e.g.

“TIME Magazine Attacks Whistleblowers”, Jesselyn Radack, Daily Kos, June 14, 2013. “TIME Magazine joins the Obama administration in equating whistleblowers with spies, a characterization aimed at silencing other potential whistleblowers. As I wrote yesterday, the magazine's cover story is a complete disaster. It pictures hacktivist Aaron Swartz, National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden & WikiLeaks defendant Bradley Manning under the screaming words, "THE INFORMERS."”

This is why it is so important to check not just the journalist, but the publication too.


The courts can also order a journalist to reveal a whistleblower’s identity (even on a civil case). I am not aware of any journalist who has ever yielded, and (even in Australia) the courts have imprisoned journalists for protecting their sources. The day a journalist yields will be the day modern journalism dies.


[106] [Tom Devine. pp. 86]: “Sometimes the facts alone are the functional equivalent of your signature. This is the case, for example, when only a few people (including you) could possibly be aware of the information you have released. In that case, if a reporter uses your information at all, your identity will be revealed. If you want to remain anonymous in such cases, it is wisest to communicate only on "deep background," to educate the reporter on the issue.” Allan Kessing was charged because they thought he may have been responsible for the leak. The AFP allegedly withheld evidence of his innocence from the trial that convicted him.


[107] “You better be careful blowing the whistle — new laws have holes”, Brendan Jones, Jul 30, 2013.
http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/07/30/you-better-be-careful-blowing-the-whistle-new-laws-have-holes/ Note: Rebuttal to Labor Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC’s response appears in the comments.


[108] Communication.


[109] “Allan Kessing: my side of the story”, Crikey, Sep 14, 2009.



[110] Communication: Crikey. “keep it nice and tight – no more than 800 words”
Personal Observations: The biggest mistakes I see in communication (articles, letters, e-mails) are people using far more words than necessary and not writing clearly. Why use 1,000 words when you can use 10? Unless your communications are short and very clear, publications won’t carry them and people won’t bother reading them, regardless of how important you think it is. In Internet parlance this is “tl;dr”; “Too long, didn’t read.”


Write in a conversational-style; The way you talk. An article should begin with a good hook, getting the punchline across in the first two paragraphs. People will read an article until they lose interest. An erudite academic-style or waffle will put people off. They stop reading when they hit jargon, management-speak, or a well-worn phrase. (e.g. Saying "Human Rights" risks switching off people who don't have a particular interest in the subject, which most people don't.) Bias, pushing your own opinion or using emotive-phrases (name calling) can switch them off too; People want to be informed, but they don't want to be preached at. The articles that cut the deepest are those that are clinical; condemning the corrupt merely by telling the world the facts of what they have done, free any personal opinion by the author.


Write tightly; Don’t use any more words than necessary to make a point. Where possible, make your point by using relevant, real-world examples. These engage the reader. Abstract arguments or fictional examples can be dismissed as hypothetical. Where possible, use local examples; If you are writing for Australians, use Australian cases rather than American ones.


An exception to “keep it short” is if you are writing an academic analysis in which you need to be thorough. (c.f. In my opinion piece published in Crikey about Labor's new whistleblowing laws I didn't need to point out every single flaw in the new laws; There simply wasn't space, and it would have been tedious if I did. Instead I only had to prove my premise that there were enough flaws to render the laws unusable. http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/07/30/you-better-be-careful-blowing-the-whistle-new-laws-have-holes/ )


Another exception to “keep it short” is if you are keeping notes or e.g. writing a letter documenting an oral conversation or corrupt act. These can be used as evidence. The more detailed these are, the better. You must keep detailed records of all your conversations, including those with corrupt officials and the AFP. In particular, a prominent lawyer warned me that if you have a conversation with an AFP officer they will make their own notes which they may try and use against you. The media has reported cases of federal police intimidating whistleblowers, and withholding or falsifying evidence to convict them (e.g. Skrijel, Kessing). The prominent lawyer said that in court whomever has the most detailed notes usually wins.


After taking notes, talk to / send them to other trusted people (including trusted journalists, even if they aren’t running the story) who can back up your testimony if required. If you're bold, send it back to the corrupt person and ask them if they agree it's an accurate record. This puts them in a bind: If they agree, they're admitting to their own misconduct. If they don't, you can ask them why they're not acting on your complaint. If you do this, it's important to copy others on the correspondence (under Qualified Privilege so you aren't exposed to defamation). Whistleblowers are in most danger when their secret is only known to few. The more people that know, the better. The corrupt officials need to know others know too, but copying only politicians, lawyers or beat journalists won't be effective. Instead the gold standard is to write an open letter that informs the public without exposing the whistleblower to defamation.


[111] Personal Observation: The public assume that journalists want ‘scoops’ (something new), but if a topic is already under discussion (part of the ‘News Agenda’) it is much easier to get it run. The public assume journalists like ‘follow up’ stories, but at the same time having just run a story they won’t visit it again for a while.


Michael Pascoe has written about a phenomena where important stories are dying because news organisations won’t pick up each other’s stories. He said the media suffers from “Not Invented Here syndrome – if newspaper X has a scoop, there's a fair chance newspapers Y and Z won't touch it.” http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-checkout-is-a-bitter-pill-for-some-20130503-2ixet.html The implications of that are interesting; You must check all newspapers and TV to be fully-informed. At the Brisbane Political Forum The Brisbane Times gave me an opportunity to ask candidates why there was no action against endemic corruption within the Commonwealth Public Service. None had heard anything about it, and the Labor candidate replied that if what I said was true, then why hadn’t the papers hadn’t broke the story? There was stunned silence when I replied they had. But the problem was the coverage was very thin, and if you blinked you would miss it: (“Public service keeps fraud cases private”, 2011-09-24, SMH, Linton Besser, http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service-keeps-fraud-cases-private-20110923-1kpdr.html“Our costly complacency on corruption”, 2013-03-05, Stephen Bartos, Canberra Times, http://www.canberratimes.com.au/opinion/our-costly-complacency-on-corruption-20130303-2fe2f.html . I myself had a letter from the Public Service Commissioner proving that the Public Service Minister’s rebuttal was false, but no one would run it. In the end I did an open letter: http://victimsofdsto.com/psc )


[112] Personal Observations.


[113] Namecheap.com: $11 per year for the domain name with privacy protection and $49 per year for web hosting. Don’t use a .com.au domain or use any Australian web companies. You can also get free blogs, though these can be shut down. Of course if they are shut down, that is news in and of itself.


[114] “This week the Victims of CSIRO website logged its 50,000th visitor since the website went public in August 2012.” http://victimsofcsiro.com/2013/07/16/victims-of-csiro-website-reaches-50000-unique-visits/


[115] Communication: Andrew Hooley.


[116] “Brian Martin: writings on defamation”, http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/defamation.html


[117] Personal Observations: We have all found government web servers scanning our web sites regularly. Victims of CSIRO told me as the result of an FOI request they learned that every time they make a post on their site 40 notifications go out, mostly to CSIRO management. When the CSIRO began scanning mine every 5 minutes with a Javabot, I blocked access. On 2013-09-26 I discovered the Department of Defence using web surveillance company Blue Coat Systems to circumvent the blocks I had set up on my web site. Wikipedia describes Blue Coat Systems as a web surveillance company whom Reporters sans Borders accused of being “"Corporate Enemies of the Internet" and “digital era mercenaries” for selling products that have been or are being used by governments to violate human rights and freedom of information."” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Coat_Systems  http://ozloop.org/profiles/blogs/aps-agencies-as-hackers


[118] Personal Observation: Politicians are the only people who have the direct power to change anything. Yet instead of engaging them directly, activists try and use the press to whip up public support, and then hopes public opinion causes the politicians to act. It is far simpler to approach politicians directly, presenting an argument it is in their interests. A personal meeting can achieve far more than writing long letters (which won’t be read) or criticism (which is counterproductive). If they are unreceptive, persist and never give up. Public opinion can shift reluctant politicians, and may be necessary when the change is not in their interests. But even then, you still end up going back to the politicians. Politicians are the only people who have the direct power to change anything. Public opinion and the media is one means to that end.

“Activists’ Media Work — Likely to Not Work”, Adina Nack, Jun 30, 2011.

Sarah Sobieraj: “I studied 50 U.S. activist groups from across the political spectrum, expecting to find engagement in a range of political strategies, but nearly every organization had the same strategy – attracting attention from the mainstream news media. They invested astounding amounts of time, money, and energy into media preparation and training, but were largely unsuccessful.” ... “In addition to creating internal problems, media-centrism also interferes with external communication. Most groups were determined to reach the “general public” and assumed that the news would serve as intermediary, instead of working to reach those ... directly.” ... “open communication among fellow activists was often replaced by rigorous attempts to control their speech and behavior. Activists were meticulously schooled on talking points, warned about “entrapment,” and reminded repeatedly to “stay on message” at all costs. ... This approach was practical but could also be toxic.”  ...  “On several occasions, I watched pedestrians approach activists to ask questions only to have an activist respond with a rehearsed one-liner.  Activists were ready with talking points but unable to actually talk. Sometimes media trainings left activists so anxious that they directed bystanders to their website to avoid answering questions.”


[119] Personal Observation: There’s more money to be made covering up corruption than there is by exposing it.


[120] Personal Observation: All up I approached ~16 laws firms, but all refused to help. The big law firms were all are on retainer to the government and so unable to help due to their “client alignment” policies. The medium-sized law firms said they couldn’t afford to take on the government, nor would they give me advice pro bono. A couple of them were sympathetic, but that didn’t extend to waiving their fees even to give advice; They explained they were businessmen and it’s not their job to save the world. One offered to check my settlement deed (a standard document) from the government lawyers pro bono, but reneged saying it would be more work than they expected. Eventually thanks to an anti-corruption group (not Transparency International!) I received a pro bono consultation from a barrister and help from a solicitor negotiating a settlement with the government who were threatening to hit me with an estimated $200K-$300K costs order if I stepped foot into a court room. Both those lawyers had an anti-corruption background, so I gather I was quite lucky. Another whistleblower who approached a human rights lawyer said they were told they help boat people, but ‘whistleblowers are different’(!) There are a few civil and legal rights groups in Australia, but these make submissions to government rather than assist individuals. (Yet I think the debate on the PID (new whistleblowing laws) demonstrated these groups fail to understand the vast gulf between what the law says and what the government really does; What is the point of helping to pass new laws when the laws we already have go unenforced? They should pay heed to Thomas Jefferson who said “The execution of the laws is more important than the making of them”). Allan Kessing received some pro bono help from a barrister, but all the other solicitors and barristers insisted on being paid. When he ran out of money, it stopped. If Allan Kessing couldn’t get pro bono, then the odds are not good for you! (Consider the irony that those who wouldn’t give Allan Kessing a break may have had their own children saved by him from drug addiction or overdose. This is the greatest lesson I have learned out of all this: Most people are inherently self-interested, and won’t help whistleblowers acting in the public-interest. Some will even try and profit from it. Others just don’t care. One whistleblower told me, ‘People are more interested in home renovation and cooking shows.’ There is no changing that, nor is there any point getting upset about it; You must accept it as human nature. But should a whistleblower risk all for a community that won’t support them? Would I do it again? Absolutely not.)


[121] Communication: Michael West.


[122] Communication: Lawyer.


[123] Communication: Dr Kim Sawyer.


[124] Personal Observation: While I hope this article helps whistleblowers and journalists work together, there is no magic formula. A good reality check while I wrote this article was that I was still unable to find coverage for no less than four stories about corruption. Wendy Bacon told me the problems is there are too many stories and not enough investigative reporters to do them. Possible solutions are:
(i) Parliament giving genuine free speech rights to Australians,
(ii) reforms to defamation law (e.g. Public Figure Doctrine, a public interest test),
(iii) limits on government surveillance, which currently discourages people from speaking to journalists or reporting corruption,
(iv) tax breaks for investigative journalism,
(v) US-style False Claims laws giving lawyers a financial incentive to work with whistleblowers, and strong protection for whistleblowers,
(vi) Severe and enforced criminal penalties for obstructing whistleblowers,
(vii) Overhaul of the deeply flawed Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013; This time with genuine consultations with whistleblowers,
(viii) Restoration of the Rule of Law; that the law must be applied equally and to everybody,
(ix) Enforcing criminal law, which the systemically-corrupt AFP avoids,
(x) Severe and enforced criminal penalties against public officials committing misconduct in public office; Criminalisation of misfeasance in public office,
(xi) Upholding administrative law, including the Model Litigant Policy to stop Commonwealth abuse of the civil courts,
(xii) An overhaul of systemically-corrupt oversight agencies,
(xiii) Genuine transparency and oversight over government by the public,
(xiv) Allowing reporting corruption and maladministration as automatic exemptions to Section 70 of the Crimes Act,
(xv) Strong moral leadership in the Australian public service, with zero tolerance to corruption, misconduct and incompetence,
(xvi) An independent federal anti-corruption body (like ICAC) which, unlike the AFP and internal complaints units, cannot be influenced by corrupt officials.


Version: October 20, 2013.