Skip to main content

Stop the war on whistleblowers!

Growing public pressure has forced the Attorney-General to introduce urgent amendments to strengthen our whistleblower protection laws, and promise more comprehensive reform in 2023.1

But it's cold comfort to whistleblowers Richard Boyle and David McBride, who still face prison for bravely exposing wrongdoing. Their continued prosecution contradicts the spirit of Labor's promised reforms, serving to silence those who seek to come forward in the future.2

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus holds the power to drop these prosecutions before they proceed to criminal trial. But he has no reason to intervene if the public stays silent.

Will you sign the petition calling on the Attorney-General to stop the war on whistleblowers?
Collage of whistleblower protest, Richard Boyle, and David McBride
Whistleblowers — those who expose misconduct and wrongdoing — are essential to public interest journalism, and a strong and transparent democracy.

But whistleblower protections in Australia are woefully inadequate – instead of protecting those speaking out, people are left vulnerable to severe consequences including jail time.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has promised deeper reform to our laws as a result of relentless community pressure – but he must also drop the current whistleblower prosecutions that undermine that promised reform.

That's why leading civil society groups have signed an open letter – published Monday 28 November 2022 in the Australian Financial Review – demanding the Attorney-General drop the prosecutions against whistleblowers Richard Boyle and David McBride.

The open letter was signed by GetUp, Human Rights Law Centre, Australian Centre for International Justice, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, The Australia Institute, Amnesty International Australia, and the Alliance Against Political Prosecutions.
An open letter designed for a full-page newspaper ad on whistleblower protections
Only through relentless public pressure has the government been forced to promise reform on whistleblower protections – and it's why we need to continue that pressure now.

Will you sign the petition calling on the Attorney-General to stop the war on whistleblowers?
David McBride is a former Australian Defence Force lawyer turned whistleblower.

McBride put everything on the line to expose alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. He was the key source behind the ABC's investigation The Afghan Files, reported in 2017.

McBride's revelations led to an investigation and to the Brereton report — which found evidence of allegations of unlawful killings. But despite this, the first person to be charged in relation to these crimes is not the perpetrators – but the man who exposed them in the first place.

McBride was set to start his defence under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, Australia's federal whistleblowing law. If successful, McBride would have avoided a criminal trial by showing his actions as a whistleblower were in the public interest and therefore protected.

However, before his legal team could even mount their defence, the Government excluded McBride's evidence on national security grounds. This forced McBride's legal team to abandon any defence under the Public Interest Disclosure Act as there was little prospect of success without the evidence.

In November 2023, McBride pleaded guilty to three out of five charges after the court upheld the decision that his disclosures do not serve public interest. The court has scheduled his sentencing date in March 2024. david mcbride speaking at canberra rally
Richard Boyle is a former Australian Tax Office employee who became a whistleblower in 2017, when he exposed aggressive and unethical debt recovery measures the Australian Tax Office used against small businesses. After trying to raise his concerns internally, Boyle took his concerns public. His actions led to three reviews and policy reform, which corroborated his concerns.

And yet, Boyle faces criminal charges, which could amount to life in prison for exposing these unethical practices.

For years, Boyle has awaited the outcome of his defence under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, resulting in serious personal hardship. In March of this year, a court ruled that he was not protected under the Act. He is awaiting the results of his appealing.

His criminal trial is set to begin in September 2024.
Bernard Collaery is a lawyer and former ACT Attorney-General. Until recently, he faced criminal charges in relation to his role as whistleblower Witness K's lawyer, who exposed the alleged bugging of Timor-Leste offices over oil and gas negotiations in the 2000s.7

Collaery's case has been shrouded in an extraordinary level of secrecy, with the prosecutors attempting to try him behind closed doors away from the public eye.8 This has been fiercely fought at every level.

After nearly four years of languishing and fighting for the transparency of his trial, Collaery's prosecution has finally been dropped by the Attorney-General.
[1] Labor to boost whistleblower protections in last sitting fortnight of parliamentary year, The Guardian, 16 November 2022.
[2] New report shows how and why Australia's whistleblowing laws need an overhaul, SBS News, 24 November 2022.
[3] Afghanistan war crimes inquiry: Calls to drop prosecution of whistleblower David McBride, The Canberra Time, 14 April 2021.
[4] David McBride's prosecution shows 'insidious' side of national security debate: Professor Peter Greste, The Canberra Times, 14 September 2021.
[5] Prosecutors proceed with case against ATO whistleblower Richard Boyle, The ABC, 29 April 2021.
[6] 'I feel like I almost died': ATO whistleblower breaks silence on facing 161 years in jail, The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 2019.
[7] October trial date set for Bernard Collaery nearly four years after charges laid, The Guardian, 26 May 2022.
[8] Bernard Collaery wins appeal against order to shroud ACT Supreme Court trial in secrecy, The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 October 2021.


To the Albanese Government:

We demand that all current prosecutions against whistleblowers David McBride and Richard Boyle be dropped immediately.

Whistleblower protections must be reformed to protect journalists and their sources.

55,993 signatures

We need 4,007 more

In taking action, I agree to GetUp's Privacy Policy.