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Byron Shire
June 18, 2024

Editorial – Just another unjust moment in history

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Justice has been served and it’s a shit sandwich: whistleblower David McBride is now the first person to be sentenced to jail in Australia for reporting war crimes.

While his lawyers say he will appeal, McBride’s sentence on Tuesday was for five years and eight months.

By all accounts, McBride tried to do the right thing. As a military lawyer, he raised his concerns of Afghan war crimes internally.

After being ignored, he went to the ABC. Ironically, journalist Dan Oakes was later awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for ‘service to journalism’ for his work on the Afghan Files.

Federal Labor could have intervened with McBride – as it did for another high profile whistleblower and former ACT Attorney-General, Bernard Collaery.

Labor Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus QC, discontinued Collaery’s case using his power under the Judiciary Act 1903 in early July 2022.

So why didn’t Dreyfus do the right thing, and drop the case against McBride?

‘It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf, perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do.’

– Author E.A. Bucchianeri

The Collaery intervention was perhaps driven less by doing the right thing, and more about containing political damage.

The ACT Court of Appeal ruled against holding Collaery’s trial in secret, so allowing the prosecution to continue would have required admitting in open court that Australia (both Labor and Coalition governments) had spied on Timor-Leste during negotiations over oil and gas reserves.

Federal Labor would presumably rather maintain the facade that protocols need to be followed, and that such action compromises the nation’s security and defence.

It’s a well worn trope from all governments, all across the globe.

Yet there is little to any evidence that the exposure of such secrets leads to an advantage for adversaries, or puts the lives of security forces at risk.

It didn’t with Julian Assange’s Wikileaks documents, of which the material released to the public was vast. He is still in jail.

There were no deaths reported after the revelations by Edward Snowden, who is unable to return to the US for fear of his life.

Generally, whistleblowers are diligent insiders who develop a conscience after the system fails them.

They want the best for their country, and understand the government is not their country.

The Guardian reported that the presiding judge in McBride’s case said he ultimately believed McBride was of ‘good character’, but he appeared ‘to have become obsessed with the correctness of his own opinions’.

Was that an opinion that embarrassed the government?

Hans Lovejoy, editor

News tips are welcome: [email protected]

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  1. Say what you will about the noble intentions of whistle- blowers, this is generally self-evident , but…
    Our politicians have no such noble constraints , they merely fight for their nose in the trough and the length of time it is there.
    They live in constant fear their nefarious activities may be exposed by some community minded citizen and so must rain down hell-fire and brimstone on any so rebellious as to question their rights to pillage and slaughter with impunity.
    This is what Australia has become, a fascist state.
    Cheers, G”)

  2. There are so many of our politicians from all parties who need to recalibrate their moral compasses.
    viz on the Israeli atrocities in Gaza; relationship with the USA; action on climate change; abandonment of public education; whistle blowers.

  3. The industrial military complex is far from a perfect beast. Assange, David McBride and all Whistleblowers are to be honoured within the justice values of Civil Society . Elevate the legal rights of Whistle blowers, expose politicians who defy the International principles that uphold PEACE AND SENTIENT RIGHTS and most of all live and act within a enlightened conscience. Australia is walking a very dark path……the photo of Morrison with Trump and the threats of AUKUS ADD TO DEEP CONCERNS. Free Assange and Mcbride.

  4. Well put Hans. It is also clear that other avenues for whistleblowers need to be created. Of course there will be many opposed to something existing which safely allows honest people to disclose evidence of curruption and other wrongdoing.

    I hope that in the appeal McBride’s lawyers draw attention to the trial judge’s remarks that McBride’s first duty was to the Defence Department. I say that in fact McBride fulfilled that duty by raising his concerns internally. At that time the relevant people in the Defence Department then failed the Australian people, in particular all members of the forces by failing to take proper action.

    I say that his duty to the continuing entity of the Defence Department was to try and ensure its ongoing integrity and proper role for the Australian people. The failure to investigate and act by the relevant people left him no choice but to make the public aware of his concerns.

    In addition to the injustice to whistleblowers, we have that where people who lie or cover up the truth when confronted with it, are usually not punished. I will be writing to the Federal A-G and to my local MP urging them not to oppose the appeal.

  5. I have always said, what happened in Afghanistan should stay in Afghanistan. The whistleblowers should be well aware of historical results when going public, however that does not excuse the inept judges that live in another world.


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