Whistleblowers may get compo

by Chris Griffith
Published 24 September 1995 in The Sunday Mail


my face


A controversial Senate committee inquiry into unresolved Queensland whistleblower cases could recommend that the Goss government compensate some whistleblowers, according to the committee's chairman, Senator Shayne Murphy.

Senator Murphy (ALP, Tas) said there should be one set of whistleblower protection laws operating across Australia. A ministerial council-type meeting, involving state and federal ministers and departmental officers would be appropriate to achieve uniform laws, he said.

"A separate independent agency is one of the mechanisms that will provide the greatest surety that people will be treated fairly and equitably."

Senator Murphy, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Unresolved Whistleblower Cases, said the committee's report, originally due on June 5th, would now not be released until around October 18th.

He refused to support speculation that the existing draft report produced by the committee's secretariat, which has not been made public, could soon undergo a major rewrite.

He said the Queensland government may not be obliged legally to implement the committee's recommendations, but he was concerned about the personal circumstances of several Queensland whisteblowers who took part in the inquiry.

The committee's delving into Queensland affairs represents a head-on clash between the Senate, the Goss government, and the CJC.

Its investigation began last year when Premier Wayne Goss refused point-blank to carry out a recommendation of the now-defunct Senate Committee on Public Sector Whistleblowing, namely that the state government establish "an independent investigation" into the unresolved Queensland cases.

After Mr Goss refused this request, the Senate formed the current committee.

It has since examined several cases including the alleged victimisation of former detectives Gordon Harris and John Reynolds, who attempted to prosecute former Fitzgerald Inquiry investigator John Huey, and the alleged victimisation of former police officer Bill Zinglemann who exposed smuggling and other illegal activities in Cape York Peninsula.

It has also examined the plight of former union official Kevin Lindeberg who opposed state cabinet's decision to shred documents wanted for legal action by former public servant Peter Coyne.

The committee in particular honed in on the CJC's role in investigating these complaints.

Whistleblowers claimed the Queensland authorities had a conflict of interest or a vested interest against investigating their concerns thoroughly.

Senator Murphy said he personally believed Gordon Harris and John Reynolds were "the victim of circumstances".

"It's hard to see why they would have perused the Huey diaries issue for any other reason than to highlight the alleged wrongdoing by that person, and I think the system to some degree let them down," he said.

"Kevin Lindeberg likewise pursued his case on the basis he thought he was doing the right thing. He wasn't doing it for financial gain or anything else.

"I don't think that there was any conspiratorial objective in the government's action that led to the shredding of the documents. I think they just did it on the basis of making a judgment, maybe they didn't handle it very well."

Senator Murphy said former police officer Bill Zinglemann had experienced a loss of employment, and loss of employability, and he deserved support.

He said the committee reviewed the first four chapters of its seven chapter draft report on Monday. The committee would reconvene tomorrow (subs Monday).