New report finds: ‘What we don't know, can hurt us’

Young Liberty for Law Reform, a program of one of Australia’s leading civil liberties organisations, Liberty Victoria, released a report today shining a light on a dark corner of our democracy. The report recommends fundamental and urgent changes to the laws that apply to whistleblowers in our immigration system, and calls on the Commonwealth Government to end a culture of secrecy.

Coinciding with the release of their report, Young Liberty for Law Reform in association with the Wheeler Centre, presented a panel discussion this evening. The panel, which was moderated by journalist, producer and presenter, Ms Anita Barraud and featured Maurice Blackburn lawyer, Mr Jacob Varghese, Melbourne University academic and author, Dr Suelette Dreyfus and Manus Island whistleblower, Mr Rod St George, discussed the crackdown on whistleblowers who report wrongs that they have witnessed at Australia’s offshore detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea.
Dr Dreyfus said the Commonwealth Government’s laws and policies that discourage legitimate whistleblowing are a threat to our democracy. “Whistleblowers play a vital role in Australia’s democracy, by holding perpetrators of wrongs accountable for their actions, and by giving a voice to the victims of those wrongs. The government should be encouraging transparency and accountability, not shutting the truth behind closed doors,” said Dr Dreyfus.

President of Liberty Victoria, George Georgiou SC, said: “The role of whistleblowers is particularly important in the context of Australia’s immigration policy. The remoteness of Australia’s offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea makes normal oversight arrangements difficult, potentially risking the health, safety, dignity and human rights of asylum seekers.”

Mr Varghese said that the numerous obstacles faced by potential whistleblowers wanting to legitimately report transgressions committed against asylum seekers call into question the legitimacy of the government's immigration policy. “Workers at the offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea face legal, practical and cultural obstacles preventing them from speaking out about wrongs being committed against vulnerable people in Australia’s care,” said Mr Varghese.

To read the full report, download YLLR Operation Secret Borders