Whistleblowers are individuals who expose wrongdoing or misconduct within an organisation. They are often motivated by a desire to protect the public interest, but they can also be motivated by personal reasons, such as retaliation for being passed over for a promotion.
Whistleblowing can be a risky activity, as it can lead to job loss, harassment, and even legal action. The legal implications of whistleblowing in Australia vary depending on the circumstances. In general, whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by their employer, but they may be subject to criminal charges if they disclose classified information.
The Crimes Act 1914 makes it an offence to disclose classified information without authorisation potentially resulting in 2 years in prison. There are a number of well-known Australian whistleblowers currently facing legal consequences as a result of their actions.
Julian Assange is a former Australian computer programmer and journalist who is best known for founding WikiLeaks, a website that publishes classified information. Assange has been accused of espionage and other crimes, and he is currently being held in the UK on extradition to the US.
In 2022 Mr. Stolz was sued by his former employer for allegedly leaking documents to journalists which revealed that up to 95% of venues in NSW were not compliant with counter-terrorism finance and money laundering law. In response Mr. Stolz sued ClubsNSW seeking damages for defamation and payments related to various workplace claims. Both cases were resolved in February 2023.
'Tom the Whistleblower'
'Tom the Whistleblower' is an anonymous Australian who ran the Twitter account, @BlowingTom. Tom leaked materials detailing Liberal National party staffers and MPs engaging in sexual acts within parliament house.
David McBride is an Australian military lawyer who blew the whistle on the Australian Defence Force's (ADF) war crimes in Afghanistan. Mr. McBride was employed by the ADF when he became aware of the ADF's practice of killing unarmed civilians in Afghanistan. He leaked this information to the media in 2017, and he was subsequently charged with violating the Defence Force Act. At time of writing, his case is still awaiting trial.
Richard Boyle is an Australian former tax official who blew the whistle on the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) aggressive debt recovery practices. Mr. Boyle was employed by the ATO when he became aware of the ATO's practice of harassing and threatening Australian citizens. He leaked this information to the media in 2018 and is facing life imprisonment.
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