Dreyfus unveils whistleblower reforms

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus will today unveil whistleblower reforms that will strip criminal liability from almost a fifth of federal secrecy offences, partly replaced by a new broader criminal offence.

What we know:

  • Dreyfus will today release the federal government's response to a wide-ranging review into the nation’s secrecy laws (SMH); 
  • The review was announced in December last year, after years of warnings that the increasingly complex laws could threaten open democracy (The Saturday Paper); 
  • The response will see criminal liability removed from 168 of 875 secrecy offences, amid concerns the PwC scandal exposed the hindrance of secrecy laws in investigating tax advisers’ alleged breach of confidentiality provisions;
  • A new broad secrecy offence will target Commonwealth officials and people such as consultants who breach confidentiality rules;
  • Dreyfus said the new offence will require the need for genuine harm to be caused by sensitive information being put into the public domain;
  • “I don’t think that embarrassment alone to a government should ever be a reason for maintaining secrecy,” Dreyfus said.
  • The reforms will also enshrine in legislation a rule that journalists can only be prosecuted with the approval of the attorney-general (ABC); 
  • The rule was created by former attorney-general Christian Porter by ministerial directive  after legal threats hung over the heads of journalists reporting alleged war crimes;
  • It comes as Dreyfus faces criticism for the prosecution of whistleblower David McBride, who last week pled guilty to three charges of leaking of information related to war crimes allegations (The Saturday Paper). 
  • McBride’s defence collapsed after the Department of Defence claimed public interest immunity over key information, allowing the government to withhold evidence from the court (The Conversation).

Labor eyes preventative detention

Labor has sought legal advice on the prospect of using preventative detention-style laws to re-detain non-citizens who have already served jail time for offences committed.

What we know:

  • Labor is reportedly looking into the prospect after the High Court ruled indefinite immigration detention was illegal, prompting the release of 93 people (SMH); 
  • Coalition home affairs spokesman James Paterson on Sunday called for “preventive detention, continuing detention and control orders [to] be applied at the very least to the higher risk offenders”;
  • The current preventative detention regime allows for the continued imprisonment of terrorist offenders still considered a risk after their prison terms expire, but Australia’s Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Grant Donaldson has called for its abolition;
  • Labor and the Coalition joined forces last week to pass a law placing onerous restrictions on the group such as ankle bracelets and curfews (The Saturday Paper); 
  • It comes as a secret government review reveals systemic gaps in healthcare at Australia’s immigration detention centres, contributing to the deaths of two refugees (The Age); 
  • Refugees Moses Kellie and Milad Aljaberi died after they were found hanging in cell rooms within two months of each other at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, with both awaiting decisions after challenging the cancellation of their visas due to criminal offending;
  • The men had a history of self-harm and substance abuse when they were transferred from prison into immigration detention, but the review found processes in place to manage these risks either did not exist or were not followed;
  • Police have also been caught lobbying to have refugees extrajudicially punished and deported for crimes that they have yet to be found guilty (The Politics). 

Lifeline: 131 114


Climate activist to appeal conviction

A Disrupt Burrup Hub activist has been convicted for failing to allow police to access her mobile phone and laptop, but will appeal the decision.

Climate activist Joana Partyka pled not guilty in the Perth magistrates court to two charges of failing to obey a data access order (The West Australian $). 

Partyka, who also works for the Australian Greens, had her mobile phone and laptop seized from her apartment in March in relation to a police investigation into climate protests (The Saturday Paper). 

The activist told the court she asked the Greens for permission to allow police access to her devices but was told it would breach her employment contract.

Partyka was fined $1200 plus court costs but said she would probably appeal against the convictions due to “multiple errors in the decisions given today” (The Guardian). 


Optus chief resigns after outage

Optus chief Kelly Bayer Rosmarin has resigned in the wake of a year of turbulence for the telecommunications company.

Bayer Rosmarin tendered her resignation on Monday, after fronting a Senate inquiry on Friday concerning a major Optus outage that left 10m customers disconnected (Nine). 

The company also suffered a major data breach in September 2022, with 2.8m customers having their passport, driver's licence and Medicare numbers exposed on the dark web (The Saturday Paper). 

“Having now had time for some personal reflection, I have come to the decision that my resignation is in the best interest of Optus moving forward,” Bayer Rosmarin said.

The resignation is effective immediately, with chief financial officer Michael Venter to fill in as interim CEO until a replacement is found.
The early frontrunner is former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has served as one of Bayer Rosmarin’s top deputies since February 2022 (SMH). 


Prem babies evacuated to Egypt

Premature Gaza babies have been evacuated to Egypt, as Israeli forces lay siege to another hospital.

A group of 28 prematurely born babies evacuated from Al-Shifa Hospital were taken into Egypt for urgent treatment, with all “fighting serious infections”, according to the World Health Organization (Reuters). 

Four babies reportedly died before the evacuation, and more than 250 critically ill or wounded patients remain stranded at the hospital, which can no longer provide most treatment after running out of water, medical supplies and fuel for emergency generators.

Israeli troops stormed the hospital last week, and the country’s military released video it said showed evidence of a tunnel underneath the hospital used by Hamas, and of two hostages being taken to the hospital (AP). 

It comes as Israeli tanks encircle the Indonesian Hospital, where the local health ministry said attacks killed at least 12 Palestinians.

As Gaza’s health system collapses completely, dozens of trucks entered from Egypt with equipment from Jordan to set up a field hospital in the southern town of Khan Younis.

At the urging of Israel more than a million Palestinians have evacuated to the south, however air strikes are ramping up there too with civilians told to move again towards the coast.


He is way more excessive and unstable than Bolsonaro and Trump. So it’s highly unpredictable what this person could do.

Argentinian historian Federico Finchelstein reacts to his country electing far-right libertarian Javier Milei, who campaigned with a revving chainsaw while peldging to get rid of the Argentina’s central bank, currency and more than a dozen government ministries (The Guardian).


Postscript: Why do we keep tabs on people we can’t stand?

You, too, might find yourself looking at the social media feeds of people you don’t like and getting joy out of that experience. It’s a common habit, an often harmless way to let off some steam, but continually hate-stalking others’ accounts can keep us trapped in a cycle of unproductive negativity (Vox).