There is no greater legacy one can have than to improve the lot of others

Centre in Response to Corruption

Corruption comes in myriad forms and is in every layer of life. It is part of the human narrative and in its worst forms is responsible for culminations such as human inequalities, social injustices, human rights abuses. Corruption undermines society’s inherent pursuit of socially just and fair society, undermines the pursuit of equality.

In a May 1, 2014 article by the independent free online news site, The Stringer, highlighted the price paid by whistleblowers who did not have the eyes of the world watching over them.

  • Be prepared for ruin when blowing the whistle on corruption

“Some of these names – of whistleblowers – will mean little to you, they may not ring any bells, because the mainstream press in general has failed to adequately highlight corrupt transgressions and their transgressors and in the sustained ways that true journalism should chase down the justice. Michael Moodie, Allan Kessing, Chris Read, Neil Winzer, Jean Thornton, Jo Connolly, Deborah Locke and Simon Illingworth.

The stories of these whistleblowers are at least ten years old, but how many of them have you heard of?  Journalism is supposed to be investigative, sustained with through-care, but sadly this is not the case in a nation that on the Reporters Without Borders Free Press Index ranks only 25th, with nations like Costa Rica ranking much higher for press freedoms.

In countries such as Australia where aside powerful cultures of favour dispensation and nepotism there is the obscenity of litigation – where the wealthy can use it exclusively to their advantage to suppress the truth and persecute those who blow the whistle on them, whether they are insiders going public or investigative journalists working in the public interest. In Australia litigation-aversive publishers and broadcasters do not deal as a free press. Without a free press no amount of legislation can protect whistleblowers. Blowing the whistle on corruption takes both courage and conviction.

Some whistleblowers question why they bothered, some warn others against going down their path.
Some suffer to the end of days.

Chris Read was a senior investigating officer with the State Ombudsman for seven years. He reported breaches by his boss. He lost his job.

Mr Read said his colleagues “sniggered” at “how entertaining it was watching me commit professional suicide.” He said his colleagues were “the ones who sucked up to him and received generous promotions.”

Mr Read’s boss resigned as the State Ombudsman in 2001 following two damning reports to Parliament. But despite vindication Mr Read’s career was in ruins. Instead of applauding his whistleblowing ways Mr Read became a pariah. Who wants a whistleblower around? Certainly not the nepotic cultures of favour-dispensation.

Jean Thornton was a public servant who exposed rorts in the Western Australian Aboriginal health sector. And the former head of two Perth’s major hospitals, Michael Moodie had his life destroyed after exposing a hospital’s terrible record on baby deaths and on exposing various financial rorting in the health sector.

Blow the whistle on the police hierarchy or on rogue police behaviours and you are a ‘dog’. Sergeant Jo Connolly found out the hard way that blowing the whistle on improprieties is just not on. Well it should be, there should be more like Ms Connolly. The police hierarchy mobbed Ms Connolly.

I have written previously on the police whistleblowing by former officer Deborah Locke, her lot was one of ostracisation and harassment.

Former NSW detective Senior Constable Locke, author of Watching the Detectives, blew the whistle on alleged corruption within the ranks of the NSW Police Force during the 1990s. By going public with her allegations of widespread corruption she factored into the bringing about of the Wood Royal Commission which arguably led to some reforms.

Ms Locke is a member of Whistleblowers Australia and has served as a representative on the NSW Police Internal Witness Advisory Council.

“As we continue to hear reports in the media about crooked detectives in police forces throughout the country, both state and federally, we need to support the honest cops in their efforts to weed out the corrupt ones,” said Ms Locke.

Former Victorian police officer Simon Illingworth had his life smashed when he tried to weed out and prosecute corrupt police. Mr Illingworth had been part of the Victoria Police Ethical Standards Department. By the end of his tenure he was standalone and ostracised in the Department. He was described as a ‘filthy rat’, which would become the title of his book.

Allan Kessing was a Sydney based senior customs officer who in 2002 and 2003, near retirement was seconded to investigate and produce reports on Sydney Airport security. His reports on airport corruption were suppressed but after the arrest of Schapelle Corby in 2004, his reports were leaked by unknown parties to the media. Mr Kessing was prosecuted on suspicion he leaked his own reports under what was effectively an anti-whistleblowers Act – built around not passing on various information. His legal defence dried up his superannuation. An honest person wounded by cultures of secrecy and silences which may not necessarily be working in the public interest.

And then lastly there is Neil Winzer, a former Transport Department public servant. For nearly two decades Mr Winzer has been pushing for his whistleblowing to be investigated and of what has occurred to him since. He has had his income blown away in alleged reprisal and his future looks bleak and impoverished. Is this the way it should be with whistleblowing?

Retired Western Australian parliamentarian, Max Trenorden spoke lengthily in Parliament in 2011 about Mr Winzer’s plight.
“Why has this matter not been dealt with?”

“There is no excuse for this matter to not have been dealt with,” said Mr Trenorden.

“I put to members directly that the number one reason this matter has not been dealt with is because this man blew the whistle on a range of prominent Western Australians and he deserves to be punished! That is why the matter has not been resolved and why it remains unresolved now.”

Mr Trenorden continued, “Mr Winzer blew the whistle on a number of very prominent Western Australians. I will not run through who they are, but some of them cannot be much more prominent in this State, and I will point out to this House that some years ago we passed a Bill that said people who blow the whistle will be protected. But do we protect whistleblowers? Absolutely not!”

Whether it was coincidence or not, the more than two decades-long stalwart of the National Party was not preselected again by the Party for candidacy – Mr Trenorden was furious. At that time the Nationals and the Liberal Party were a Coalition and formed Government.

“This issue has been reported on by several committees to this House and Members have regularly stood and attempted to get some justice for Mr Winzer, but this just cruises on. Just like with Michael Moodie it just cruises on. You just trample over these people because you have the power, because you are in the club and the club allows you to do what you want. It is just unacceptable,” said Mr Trenorden to the Legislative Council.

But Mr Trenorden was not the only parliamentarian to take up the cause for Mr Winzer’s rights. In 2000, the Labor parliamentarian, Kim Chance addressed the Legislative Council.

“Why would this happen? This is not a man who posed any threat to Government policy. He is simply a man who is trying to do his job professionally. I hate to think that we might be part of a system that for one reason or another has set out to destroy an individual. I know that nobody in this Parliament would want that to happen and I hope we can bring some goodwill to the way in which this man has been dealt with,” said Mr Chance.

In 2002, WA Greens Jim Scott told the Legislative Council, “Earlier, a Mr Winzer was in attendance in the House to listen to this debate. He is still trying to get a matter dealt with that would appear to me, on evidence, to be a genuine issue. However, there has been an ability on the part of the bureaucracy to bury the true details of what is going on.”

Later in 2002, Independent Paddy Embry also told the Legislative Council, “I will now refer to whistleblowing and Neil Winzer. I am sure everybody in this House must have heard of Neil Winzer, particularly those who were members prior to the last State election. Hon. Graham Gifford has spoken on the matter, as has the Leader of the House. Words have been said to the effect that this guy has been shafted, to put it politely.

During 2004, Liberal Cheryl Edwardes raised Mr Winzer’s plight in the Legislative Assembly.

“This Government has done absolutely nothing to resolve Neil Winzer’s situation and have this complaint investigated. Putting that issue aside, Neil Winzer is receiving no income. It is a disgrace.”

“Neil Winzer, the public servant, is subjected to constant harassment on a daily basis. He is receiving that treatment from public servants in that department. I will repeat what one public servant said about another public servant. Mr X – I will not repeat his name – could remain at home and rot just like Mr Winzer. If this is not part of workplace mobbing, I do not know what is. This Government is allowing that to occur with whistleblowers.”

In September 2007, a Standing Committee recommended to Parliament that the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure and/or the Minister for Public Sector Management take immediate steps to resolve the issue of Mr Winzer’s employment. Nothing has eventuated for Mr Winzer.

Whistleblow at your peril, this remains the warning.

The Norris and Costigan Royal Commissions may not have proven anything but they did unearth extraordinary allegations which over time are slowly proving that they could have been true. We should not forget the Wood Royal Commission, and the links between Government and ‘big’ business.

We should never forget that two of this State’s highest office bearers, Ray O’Connor and Brian Burke, were convicted and incarcerated. O’Connor at one time was also the Minister for Police.

We should realise that corruption threads every layer of society, the whole fabric, and that there are Eddie Obeids everywhere – cultures of double dealing and duplicity. Litigation protected Mr Obeid for far too long. Where would the corrupt hide if litigation did not exist. Litigation is the weapon of those who are both corrupt and wealthy.

Whistleblowers do not have any protections.

The late Patrick O’Brien, a long time Professor of Politics at the University of Western Australia wrote, “Executive Government determines salaries from the Governor down and has the power to award honours and social status. It determines who shall be Queen’s Counsels in the legal profession and thereby who shall be among the highest and most privileged income earners in the State.”

“It appoints members of the governing councils of universities, hospitals and other ‘public’ institutions. No monarch of old had such powers of patronage. When it considered that most of these powers can be exercised without reference to Parliament, it can be said that the real and potential powers of the Office of Premier are literally awesome.”

“Moreover, in combination with its vast powers of patronage, the subtle but decisive shift of power to the executive Government has the potential of transforming our system into a mammoth favours-dispensing machine in which those who have been given the right entry cards or who have paid sufficient dues to the ruling party have every chance of punching jackpots for themselves until the general revenue is exhausted. Thus, without exaggeration, Government in Western Australia in easily become a giant ‘pork-barrel’ greased by the Premier and Cabinet; an instrument for serving not the public interest but private and even corrupt interests.”

Whistleblowers and conscientious objectors should be protected and entitled to a system that provides for a substantive independent mechanism for whistleblowing complaints to be heard in entirety and honestly tested.

Litigation should be pulled into line if not done away with altogether. My late father taught me the best rule of all, “Be ready at all times to account for your every word and deed.”

Michael Moodie, Allan Kessing, Chris Read, Neil Winzer, Jean Thornton, Jo Connolly, Deborah Locke and Simon Illingworth, and hundreds of others deserve much, much better than the ugliness they have instead endured. If we want a better world then let us protect the honourable.

The Haiti Cables – WikiLeaks

January 5th, 2016

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The moral force of WikiLeaks is the bent for the truth and that truth is in the interest of the common good. According to both Plato and Aristotle the common good can only be delivered and sustained as a result of truth. Not since Socrates challenged Athenians has anyone driven as passionately for the truth as has Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder drove an unprecedented contemporaneous calling to challenge the citadels of the powerful that forever degenerate to oppressor and oppressed dichotomies. WikiLeaks gave not only voice to the powerless but also to the sense of hope. In taking on the powerful, WikiLeaks took on the rulers of the world and the influence and control they have over institutions throughout our world.

The majority would say that no-one can defeat corruption, that corruption is an immutable constant, that exploitation is an immutable constant. Many would say there are millions of injustices each day under the sun on this earth, so why bother my brother? But there are some who think contrary, that the pursuit of truth should be met fearlessly. That truth does matter. WikiLeaks took on the rulers of the world – they who in effect control the fate of the world.

The influence of the most powerful mediates the formation of governments, influences the nature and the will of governments. Their influence almost mandatorily shadows the majority of the world’s heads of government, including Australia. This was clear as the light of day when Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly condemned Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Prime Minister Gillard said that there is no moral force within WikiLeaks, that they are not motivated by any thread of a moral force. Amid a rambling condemnation of WikiLeaks Gillard applauded whistleblowers in general. The applause was a distraction but also ironical in that the Gillard Government toughened up whistleblower policies and laws, making it harder for whistleblowers – but so has one government after another. Prime Minister Gillard argued that WikiLeaks was motivated by other interests but which could not be defined as constituting a morally driven force.

Prime Minister Gillard was utterly wrong.

WikiLeaks is exclusively a moral force, pure in this. The whole purpose of WikiLeaks is the truth and a challenge to corruption at every level – particularly national and transnational corruption where governments or other citadels of corrupted influence meddle in the affairs of other nations to the detriment of those nations. WikiLeaks is not a profit oriented venture – since its inception it has not sought to make its founders wealthy materially.

On December 2, 2010, through Fairfax Radio, Prime Minister Gillard condemned Julian Assange and WikiLeaks after disclosures were published on the WikiLeaks website exposing the dangerous clandestine nature of ‘diplomacy’.

“I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website. It is a grossly irresponsible thing to do and an illegal thing to do.”

ABC Q&A segment with Julia Gillard, interviewed by Tony Jones on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

The presumptions of innocence and of whistleblowing in the public interest were hijacked by the then Prime Minister’s statement that WikiLeaks had acted ‘illegally’. Gillard and her government portrayed WikiLeaks as if a criminally bent organisation. The American administration was depicting WikiLeaks as a terrorist organisation. What led a highly skilled lawyer such as Gillard to abrogate the presumption of innocence, to dismiss the right of WikiLeaks as whistleblowers, as investigative journalists, as acting in the public interest? Prime Minister Gillard fell into line with the contrived rage from the American government and its clandestine institutions – a nation of which a majority of its conservatives and excessive self interest groups were calling for the smashing of WikiLeaks and for Assange’s blood. Psychosocially this was displaced anger – it was about guilt and being exposed. Censorship protects the guilty. This type of anger and the subsequent malice and vindictiveness have been a tragic constant in the human narrative; where moral forces shine the light on the immoral or amoral and are then punished for doing so.

President Barack Obama’s administration has prosecuted and jailed more whistleblowers than any previous American administration.
The David and Goliath like tussle between the oppressed and the oppressor continues.

Haiti is one of the world’s poorest nations. It is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. More than 80 per cent of Haiti’s predominately rural population lives in poverty. During the past decade the poverty has degraded further, becoming more extreme and dire. The life expectancy of a Haitian is 57 years of age. Less than half the Haitian population is literate and only one child in five attends secondary schooling. Less than 25 per cent of the population have access to safe water. The Haitian population continues to grow at about 200,000 per year.

In November 2010, WikiLeaks released 1,918 documents from 2003 to 2010 – ending six weeks after the January 12, 2010 earthquake which further devastated Haitian life. The documents were among the most disturbing I have read of the files published by WikiLeaks, in how America was controlling Haitian policy-making but to the detriment of the Haitian people.

It is not news that America meddles, bullies, wars with nations who do not abide. But it is darkly disturbing to read these documents and to see one of the world’s powerless nations downtrodden further by the world’s most powerful superpower. The Haitian cables wreak an air of hopelessness. One cannot not be moved by the Haiti cables.

The released documents begin nearly a year before the coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. Rene Preval took over from Aristide. In the interests of the Haitian people Preval negotiated an oil buying deal with Venezuelan oil company PetroCaribe. But the United States pulled in Chevron and ExxonMobil to do the dirty on the Haitian people. These American oil companies operating in Haiti were to refuse to transport PetroCaribe oil. The deal depended on the transport.

In one cable, the US Ambassador to Haiti, Janet Sanderson recommended that the US “convey our discontent with Preval’s actions at the highest possible level when he next visits Washington.” This followed Preval’s visit to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to craft an energy agreement that would bring electricity to millions of Haitian homes. But did the American administration care about connecting millions of the world’s poorest households to electricity?

It would not be long before Preval was reduced to another of America’s bit players. He finished up as president in 2009 passing the baton to Joseph Michel Martelly. A cable from June 1, 2009 from Ambassador Sanderson had a different tone to the 2004 cables, describing Preval as “Haiti’s indispensable man”.

Sanderson described Preval as “still moderately popular and likely the only politician capable of imposing his will on Haiti.” But the US could do better than Preval. America orchestrated the rise of Martelly who could be much more easily manipulated. A 2007 cable describes the effectively broken Preval as still unable “to resist displaying some show of independence or contrariness in dealing with Chavez.”

When Preval took office in 2004, Chavez was prepared to provide oil to beleaguered Haiti at below cost, and with Haiti paying only 60 per cent up front to Venezuela with the remainder payable at only 1 per cent interest over 25 years. But Washington sabotaged the PetroCaribe arrangement despite the unquestionable benefit to Haitians.

But with a semblance of some social conscience Chevron, though watering down some of the benefits to Haiti, ultimately signed the PetroCaribe deal in 2008.  But this is not where Washington’s disgrace ends. The minimum wage in Haiti is 24 cents an hour and Preval tried to increase it by 37 cents an hour to 61 cents. But get this, Washington saw this as a 150 per cent wages rise. It would have improved significantly the lot of Haitian families but America could not have its exploitative companies in Haiti having to pay fairer wages to the exploited impoverished. You know, companies like Levi Strauss, Hanes who reckon they need the Haitian slave wages to get the clothing stock sewed. The American companies argued for the increase to be capped to 7 cents an hour. They had support – the American Government. Ambassador Sanderson pressured Preval to not push for a 31 cents increase and with textile workers to cap the wage per day to $3. Preval had wanted to increase the daily wage of textile workers to $5.

A Deputy Chief from the American Embassy to Haiti, David Lindwall, said of Preval’s plea for $5 per day that “it did not take economic reality into account.” Lindwall suggested that Preval was appeasing “the unemployed and the underpaid masses.” But let us take Hanes – in the year of that statement by Lindwall, there were nearly 3,200 Haitians earning $2 per day sewing t-shirts. This narrative of human misery totals to about one and half million dollars in costs to Hanes. But Hanes and others like them cried poor to their Washington buddies and Washington instead of staying out of this did the standover bit. But Hanes made a clean profit of nearly $220 million out of more than $4 billion in sales.

The release of the Haiti cables was in the public interest. We have a right to know. This is the only way forward with a world at odds with itself, nightmarishly meshed in an oppressor/oppressed dichotomy.

The vicious poverty trap in Haiti continues, aided and abetted by filthily wealthy transnational companies and the duplicitous and aggressive Washington administration. Preval’s Government could not achieve all it hoped for because of American meddling – the Haiti cables, thanks to WikiLeaks evidence this – but Washington preferred the effective American stooge, Martelly as president. Washington got its way and the Haitian people were physically and emotionally degraded further.

Janet Sanderson was rewarded, going on to become a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. Julian Assange remains in the martyrdom of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. WikiLeaks continues to be hounded.

Public outrage could grow if the majority of our world read the Haiti cables. WikiLeaks should be let free to be who they have promised to be – truth-tellers, whistleblowers.

WikiLeaks is a moral force. This is all WikiLeaks has ever been.

Julian Assange and Collateral Murder

December 31st, 2015

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Julian Assange remains in wait within London’s Ecuadorean Embassy, notoriously hounded despite his courage to tell the truth. He has committed no crime against humanity. He has murdered no-one. He is hounded as if he has. But the murderers and their keepers of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrikes by US forces where air to ground attacks deploying US AH-64 Apache helicopters killing innocent civilians and journalists, have never been brought to account. Three years on from this incident the world would be availed to the awful truth. WikiLeaks released 39 minutes of the ‘classified’ gunfight footage.

Instead of the perpetrators of an abominable act of mass murder being brought to account, instead of all those in high office being brought to account for their cavalier cover up, instead of them dealing with penance, it is Assange and WikiLeaks who have been damned with labels of ‘treachery’.

WikiLeaks secret-spilling of the murder of civilians in Iraq and the ‘cablegate’ database of State Department communications should have indicted the American military and their government’s administration. The world’s media should have sustained the coverage on this and demanded accountability but instead the focus is on Assange’s reputation as an individual.

On April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released classified US military footage of the slaying of people in an Iraqi suburb. The civilians included two Reuters news staff; none appeared threatening but were soon dead. The footage clearly shows the unprovoked slaughter. Disturbingly, a wounded Reuters journalist and his potential rescuers were slaughtered. Children were injured in the attack. But instead of the military owning up, they covered it up. They were backed by the Pentagon. Reuters Agency sought answers but an investigation by the military of its own cleared everyone.

It is said that no lie lives forever, but it is not my experience that truth prevails. No grand lie should ever be got away with, that is the tenet of a sane society.

The release of the Collateral Murder Video was whistleblowing at its best; that indeed no lie should prevail. But instead of the media viciously turning on some of the world’s most powerful institutions, other than reporting on the leaked footage and engaging in some banal discussion, they have sidestepped the abomination of the murder of innocents. If this footage had been of African or Middle Eastern murderers the western media would have called for blood, with headlines, “Baghdad Butchers”, “Libyan killers”. But America can commit one crime against humanity after another, whether in Panama, whether in the Middle East, wherever and they will not be brought to account. America has been involved and/or initiated more than 100 wars around the world since World War 2.

Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are crimes against humanity however they are sold as ‘American anger’ and justified as part of the ‘War against terror’.

The WikiLeaks Organisation website states, “WikiLeaks wants to ensure that all the leaked information it receives gets the attention it deserves.” It did for a while but now this seems so long ago.

In the first airstrike by the Apache crews they fired on ten Iraqi civilians. Two of them were Reuters journalists; Iraqi war correspondents, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Seven individuals, including Noor-Eldeen, were killed in the first airstrike. Chmagh lay injured.

Saleh Matasher Tomal was driving by and instead of valuing exclusively his own life he stopped to help the injured Chmagh. He had his children with him. In a second airstrike Chmagh and Tomal, in addition to three others, were murdered from up above. Two of Tomal’s children were critically injured.

The Apache strikes did not stop. It did not matter that no one on the ground carried any weapons and that at no time did they appear threatening. Those above were safe, with the most advanced technology to view those below. But they shot them.

There was obvious panic on the ground, people fled to nearby buildings. In the third strike fired on a building where people fled for dear life. AGM-114 Hellfire missiles exploded into the building.

Reuters tried to secure the footage in 2007 and 2008 through Freedom of Information but they were denied. If it was not for WikiLeaks securing and then publishing the footage, the world would never have known. Despite the effective media blackout since the worldwide coverage, hundreds of millions of people around the world know the truth.

The Apache that flew over the injured Chmagh saw him crawling, fighting for life. The gunner stated his disappointment at the fact Chmagh did not evidence a weapon. The military’s rules of engagement prohibit firing on the unarmed. But then Saleh Matasher Tomal approached Chmagh in his van. He had been driving his children, nine year old Sajad and six year old Doaha to school. They would later state that their father had said to them he wanted to help the injured man and drive him to hospital. But the Apache had time to assess whether anyone in the van was armed. Tomal and his children stepped out of the van to help Chmagh. A crew member from the Apache kept on repeating, “Let me engage”…

“Come on…”

“Let me engage…”

“Light ’em all up, come on fire…”

“Come on, let us shoot.”

But before permission was granted to fire, the crew fired. Chmagh and Tomal were killed. The children injured. The van burned.
Some twenty minutes later the Apache crew would fire on the building where people had fled.

The fact is that the Apache fired on civilians, it was clear they were not carrying weapons. One of them was only ‘armed’ with a camera. Children were fired upon. To many it appeared that the crew were eager to claim scalps, appearing to treat the strikes as some sort of video game. There are many who have defended the actions of the Apache personnel. But what cannot be defended are the lies by the American military, the American government, the Pentagon, of the airstrikes.

The Pentagon stands by its statement that the 39 minutes of footage released to the world by WikiLeaks does not contradict earlier Pentagon statements. They continue with the sell that “engagement” was justified because the group that were fired upon was carrying an RPG (rocket propelled grenade). Watch the footage and make your own mind up.

Collateral Murder – Wikileaks – Iraq – original video

Baghdad Airstrike Unedited Apache Camera [AH-64]

Former military analyst and NSA whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg stated, “As the killing goes on, you obviously see the killing of men who are lying on the ground in an operation where ground troops are approaching and perfectly capable of taking those people captive, but meanwhile you’re murdering before the troops arrive.”

The killing of those individuals was murder – an abomination from whatever vantage, moral, political and otherwise.

It is more than half a decade since WikiLeaks’ courageous publishing. Chelsea Manning is in prison. Julian Assange is hovelled in London’s Ecuadorean Embassy. WikiLeaks Publishing Organisation is a threat to those who carry on in Kafkaesque and Orwellian ways.

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