In a truly important development, Labor’s new Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus MP, has ordered the dropping of charges against whistle-blower lawyer Bernard Collaery. Collaery had supported an ex-spy who exposed a 2004 Australian spying operation in East Timor.
We ask Mr Dreyfus to now seriously consider the dropping of charges against ATO whistle-blower Richard Boyle.
Richard was charged in 2019 with offences that would have put him in jail for 161 years. This occurred after Richard exposed serious misbehaviour inside the ATO in their debt actions against small business people. Richard went public with this in 2018 on the Four Corners exposé of the ATO’s bad behaviour.
Richard’s reporting of ATO misbehaviour has proven accurate in the following years. Further, a Senate inquiry heard that because the ATO ignored Richard’s internal reporting, this led to investigations from the Inspector-General of Taxation, the media and so on. Even an ATO-funded survey found that the ATO acted unfairly.
Australian whistle-blower laws are supposed to protect public servants who follow set procedures, principally issuing public interest disclosure documents. The legislation on this supposedly facilitates “… disclosure and investigation of wrongdoing and maladministration in the Commonwealth public sector…” What a joke this law is.
Richard followed public interest disclosure processes but that didn’t give him any protection. The ATO went after Richard anyway.
In our view Richard Boyle is an Australian hero. He exposed the truth about the bad behaviour of the ATO. In our view, the ATO is not just in the business of prosecuting Richard but rather of persecuting him. Why? In our view it’s because Richard is being used as an example to all other ATO officers. The message is clear. Don’t tell the truth. Don’t expose when the ATO does the wrong thing.
In the United States, whistle-blower protection laws are robust and have a long history dating back to the Civil War. The US recognizes that government must be transparent and accountable if government is to serve the people properly. Protecting people who declare the truth is an essential part of open, transparent and good government.
We congratulate the new Albanese government and AG Mark Dreyfus for dropping the charges against Bernard Collaery. Previous Coalition governments have shown no interest in protecting whistle-blowers but have been active in their persecution. The Albanese government seems to be using a firm broom to sweep up a major mess on this one.
Mark Dreyfus has let it be known that he is reviewing other whistle-blower cases, but has not confirmed if Richard Boyle is one of them. We ask that Dreyfus do for Ricard Boyle what he has done for Bernard Collaery and drop the charges.
We consider this an important step toward better government and a better ATO.