#1436 Blowing the Whistle


This week we work our way through the government’s changes to national security legislation, and zero in on one change that passed earlier this month – Section 35P of the ASIO Act. The change makes it illegal to disclose information about something called a ‘Special Intelligence Operation’ by ASIO. The problem for journalists is, these operations are declared in secret. So you won’t actually know whether or not you’re allowed to be reporting on it.

So what does that mean for journalists? What could it mean for whistleblowers? What does it mean for us?

The Case of Witness K

Is it so unbelievable to think that a government’s security interests and other interests could become interwoven and start to get muddled up? Well, not really, because it’s already happened.

Dr Clinton Fernandes is an Associate Professor of International Relations and Strategy at UNSW and spoke to Heidi Pett about the Timor Sea Oil Dispute and the case of Witness K.

Park Benches and ASIO in my emails

Mark Isaacs spnt nine months working for the Salvation Army in Australia’s Regional Processing Centre on Nauru. He was disappointed and horrified by what he saw, and eventually broke the confidentiality clause in his contract to write The Undesirables.  He met one of our Features EPs, Heidi Pett, on a park bench near central station because despite or even because of all the technological advances we’ve made, it’s still safer to meet in person. Also we love The Newsroom and would have met in a public library but they were all closed.

Who is Bill Toomer? 

Leona Hameed speaks to Kim Sawyer, an academic and former whistleblower, and sociologist Brian Martin about the history of whistleblowing in Australia. Do we have a culture of disclosure? What stops people from whistleblowing, apart from the law What are the best stories of whistleblowing in Australia? Everyone we spoke to for this piece mentioned the case of Bill Toomer, a quarantine officer who wanted to fumigate a ship. So we figured we’d find out why doing his job would be a reason for dismissal.

This episode was produced by Leona Hameed, Jess O’Callaghan and Heidi Pett.

Thanks to Emily HowiePaul Farrell, Tom Clarke and Dr Suelette Dreyfus for their help in pulling it together.

Presenters:  Michael Brydon 

Community Coordinator: Pip Rasmussen

Executive Producer: Giordana Caputo

Features Executive Producers: Heidi Pett & Jess O’Callaghan

Image Credit: Kate Ter Haar