In 2003 I resigned from my job as a Senior Intelligence Analyst to blow the whistle on the fraudulent claims the Howard Government was using to justify taking us to war in Iraq.
I’ve never doubted for one moment that what I did served the interests of my country and its people. Fast forward 15 years and I’m an Independent Federal MP representing the Tasmanian electorate of Denison.
Our Parliament is on the verge of passing draconian legislation that undermines government transparency, our civil liberties and freedom of the press.
Had this legislation (the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill) been in place in 2003 when I alerted the Australian people to our government’s Iraq War deceit, I’d have faced 25 years in prison.
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I’m deeply concerned about the chilling impact this legislation will have on political debate in our country. Whistleblowers and journalists help us hold power to account, and when those voices are silenced our democracy suffers.
And it’s not just whistleblowers and journalists who need to be worried about this legislation. Ordinary people participating in peaceful protest also risk being charged with serious offences. For example, if you or one of your loved ones blockaded the Adani coal mine, the Attorney General could choose to charge you with sabotage – which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think any single politician should have that sort of power.
Given the current state of global politics, it’s disturbingly easy to imagine the Australian Government might try to follow the US into Donald Trump’s first war. If that were to eventuate, do you want us to be a society that has criminalised whistleblowing?
The Turnbull Government looks set to pass this legislation next week, with the support of the Labor Party. Time is running out for us to make sure the Australian public know what is happening to our democracy.
Andrew Wilkie MP