As for Boyle, he would become “a political prisoner” if convicted, and if Dreyfus did not intervene, he would be shown to be “weak and cowardly”.
“One day [Dreyfus] will regret not intervening,” Patrick said. “I don’t think many Australians will appreciate a person being put in jail for doing the right thing.”
Patrick said the case of Defence whistleblower David McBride, who is also being pursued by federal prosecutors for blowing the whistle about war crimes allegedly committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, was so far the only individual being prosecuted over those alleged killings.
Compared to other prominent whistleblowers, Boyle took a careful approach. He first made a public interest disclosure to the tax office, which was investigated internally then rejected. Then he took it to the Inspector-General for Taxation. Only after that did he go public.
“Boyle’s whistleblowing has been vindicated by three separate independent inquiries,” says Kieran Pender from the Human Rights Law Centre. “But Boyle now faces the prospect of years in prison, for speaking up in the public interest, in a manner he thought was protected by whistleblowing law.”
“Some of the gravest wrongdoings in Australia have been exposed, and addressed, thanks to brave Australians speaking up. Yet in recent years Australian whistleblowers have been silenced through legislative inaction and civil and criminal legal proceedings.”
Pender and Patrick are urging Dreyfus to drop the prosecution and establish better whistleblower protection laws. Griffith University professor of public policy and law A.J. Brown, who is also a board member of Transparency International, has researched Australia’s whistleblower laws, finding they need reform.
He said cases like Boyle’s prove the need for an independent whistleblowing authority to sort out where the public interest in disclosure lies, rather than the only avenue being the long, damaging and costly processes of the courts.
“It’s no surprise that people walk away after blowing the whistle and that they suffer serious detriment to their lives and careers, especially when they don’t have the resources to fight for justice for themselves,” he said.
Brown found that managers and governance professionals involved in more than 1300 whistleblowing cases in 33 public and private sector organisations across Australia and New Zealand said that more than half of the public interest whistleblowers who suffered serious consequences received no remedy at all, and only 6 per cent received any compensation.
The Attorney-General’s office said he would not be making comment while the matter was before the court.
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