The Wheeler Centre
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Central to a functioning democracy is the notion of an informed public. What happens when we don’t know what the government is doing in our name? Coinciding with a report by Liberty Victoria's Young Liberty for Law Reform into government transparency and border protection policy, our panel will explore the legal and cultural barriers to whistleblowing.
In 2014, six Save the Children workers were removed from the Nauru Detention Centre under accusations – later dismissed by two independent reports – that they were coaching asylum seekers to self-harm. Meanwhile, 2015's Australia Border Force Act makes it a crime for anyone who does work for the Department of Immigration to disclose, or even make a record of, ‘protected information’. The penalty is two years in prison.
How do these events work to create a culture of secrecy? How much government secrecy is necessary for the protection of the public? And what are the limitations of our whistleblower protection laws as they stand today?
Join our panellists as they unpack issues of transparency, disclosure and the consequences that unfold when we don’t know what we don’t know.
Anita Barraud is the producer of ABC RN’s Law Report, and has worked at the ABC for almost 30 years as a journalist, producer and presenter. Barraud has produced and presented Radio National programs covering many areas including law, science, religion, books and arts, and for over ten years had a particular focus on the Asian region as producer and presenter of Indian Pacific and Asia Pacific.
Jacob Varghese is as a principal solicitor at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. He supervises the firm’s Social Justice Practice, alongside his work in the class actions department. He is currently working on a pro bono class action on behalf of people who were detained on Christmas Island detention centre and who suffered injuries as a result of the alleged negligence of the Commonwealth. Throughout the case, Varghese has had direct contact with detention centre staff and has had to grapple with the legal complexities facing workers who wish to speak out about their experiences.
Roderick St. George worked for nearly ten years in the Custodial Industry with the security firm G4S, known variously by other names. In 2013, G4S approached him regarding a management position on Manus Island. He accepted the dual role as OH&S and Quality Compliance Manager at the off-shore facility in March 2013, but resigned after one month and returned to Australia. Some months later he contacted the media to discuss the need to reveal the government’s policies on the island.
Suelette Dreyfus is a Research Fellow in the Department of Computing and Information Systems at The University of Melbourne. She is the Principal Researcher on the World Online Whistleblowing Survey, and part of an international team looking at the impact of technology on whistleblowing about wrongdoing.