Australian cases 2
This page considers further Australian whistle-blowing
cases, supplementing discussion
of principles, practice and legislation.
It covers -
and Camden Hospital
NSW nurse Nola Fraser claimed in 2002 that there were
serious problems at Campbelltown and Camden hospitals,
including cover-ups and patients dying unnecessarily.
The claims resulted in five major inquiries, at a cost
of several million of dollars, and the end of some careers.
devastation of a lot of lives.
Fraser gained the attention of controversial radio personality
Alan Jones in 2003, with the claims quickly becoming deeply
politicised. Some health administrators were sacked; they
say unfairly and as the result of political opportunism.
In 2005 the Independent Commission Against Corruption
produced the second of two reports into claims made by
Fraser and others, finding that none of the 39 serious
allegations was substantiated.
Journalist Michael Duffy commented in 2005 that
Fraser was an unwell woman who, by making many claims
that were later proved to be wrong, caused many people
anguish. But she publicised problems that deserve to
be better known.
Fraser was used by the media, so in love with the idea
of the whistleblower it accepted her more lurid claims
credulously. She was used by the Opposition, who even
presented her to the voters as their candidate for Parliament.
And she was used by the Government to distract attention
from the reality that our health system will always
be inadequate because the demands on it are almost infinite.
In June 2007 Allan Kessing was given a nine-month suspended
prison term after being found guilty of leaking a 'protected'
report that exposed ongoing security problems at Sydney
Kessing had blown the whistle in 2005, after the report
was provided to The Australian newspaper. The
report, which he had written as an Australian Customs
Service officer, identified a range of serious breaches
in security at Sydney Airport. It highlighted employment
of baggage handlers with criminal records, theft of luggage
and drug trafficking. It was 'buried' within Customs and
reportedly was not sighted by the Minister until it was
leaked (an action for
which Kessing denies responsibility), some 30 months after
it was written.
The furore was adressed by the government commissioning
a report from UK security expert Sir John Wheeler, which
confirmed Kessing's findings and prompted the government
to announce investment of over $200 million to boost airport
security. It was probably the most extensive overhaul
of Australian airport security ever.
Crown Prosecutor Lincoln Crowley argued that a prison
sentence it was necessary to deter potential whistleblowers
amongst the public service. Kessing's barrister argued
that there was nothing wrong in exposing a government
agency to criticism if that criticism was justified through
maladministration and/or incompetence.
Justice James Bennett indicated that "Whether or
not it is appropriate to view the offender in the heroic
light in which he has been bathed by some ... there is
no justification for communicating the contents of the
Prior to the sentence Kessing had commented that the trial
shows that anybody who knows of maladministration or
corruption either in the private or the public sector,
would be well advised to say nothing, do nothing, keep
your head down and look after your career and your mortgage.
It takes away the individual's responsibility and participation
in what was once a constitutional democracy. We are
being governed by fear at the moment; it's what the
government wants and everybody else has to just - you
know, head down, tail up. ...
I agree that a lot of information should not be made
public, but that is not the case here. In fact there
was a Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, in Britain,
back in the '60s, made the point that a servant is not
responsible for covering up the criminality of his master.
And that was a landmark decision in the Privy Council.
And in this case the criminality, or the incompetence,
or maladministration, whatever you want to call it,
deserved to be exposed by somebody. But most people,
as I say, they have careers, they have mortgages, to
responding to 'why do you think the finger was pointed
at you?', Kessing commented -
was an easy target, I was retired, I had never been
a quiet, acquiescent type, so yes I think I was just
the easiest target.
How many people saw the report? In a May 2007 interview
According to the government, at least 73, but ... the
point is it was flying around the unsecure Customs email
system from 2003 until mid-2005, in contravention of
Customs' own security regulations, it should not have
been put on the email system as was testified by various
people at the trial. So it was flying around the email
system, which is a simple matter of copying and sending
it on to the next person. There were an unknown number
of hard copies of the final reports, and an unknown
number of drafts, which were left on open shelves in
open offices, as once again, was testified.
and ACT Health
In 2000 ACT physician Gerard McLaren, frustrated by his
protracted unsuccessful efforts to address patient safety
concerns at the Canberra Hospital (the national capital's
primary hospital), persuaded the ACT Health Minister to
order an inquiry into neurosurgical services at the hospital.
That report, delivered 2 years later, was severely
inhibited by the reluctance of his peers to provide evidence.
highlighted concerns about patient care, the reluctance
of medical staff to publicly deal with issues and injury
to McLaren as whistleblower, acknowledged in a belated
to the doctor by the ACT Health system administrator.
The ACT experience is discussed in Thomas Faunce &
Stephen Bolsin's 2004 article
'Three Australian whistleblowing sagas: lessons for internal
and external regulation' in 181 Medical Journal of
(Canada and New Zealand whistles)