ATO whistleblower to appeal court ruling
By Michaela Whitbourn
A former Australian Taxation Office employee-turned whistleblower who is facing prosecution over steps he took to gather evidence against his employer will lodge an appeal against a court decision rejecting his bid to rely on Commonwealth whistleblower protections.
Richard Boyle worked in the ATO’s debt recovery division in Adelaide and made headlines in 2018 when he spoke out against his employer’s heavy-handed approach to some taxpayers in a joint media investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC’s Four Corners.
He was charged with a raft of offences in 2019, subsequently reduced to 24 charges, including covertly recording conversations with ATO colleagues and using his mobile phone to photograph taxpayer information.
If convicted, he faces a lengthy prison sentence.
In a decision on Monday, reasons for which were released yesterday, the South Australian District Court ruled that Boyle could not rely on an immunity against prosecution in the Public Interest Disclosure Act, the whistleblowing law for public servants.
The court found the laws protect a public servant from prosecution for making a public interest disclosure but not for alleged criminal acts before the disclosure is made.
Kieran Pender, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the decision was “catastrophic for Australian whistleblowers”.
He said today that “this is an important appeal with significance for all current and future whistleblowers in Australia”.
“The District Court judgment undermines the legal protections available for those who speak up about human rights violations, government wrongdoing and corporate misdeeds. The appeal will require the Court of Appeal to confront the hole this judgment has left in whistleblower protection laws.
“It shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of a lone whistleblower to uphold protections available to Australians. The Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC should drop the case and fix the law, so all Australians have confidence to speak up about wrongdoing. Whistleblowers make Australia a better place – they should be protected, not prosecuted.”
Greens lack of support on housing fund ‘illogical’, PM says
By Caroline Schelle
The prime minister has lashed the Greens again after it failed to get crucial support for the Housing Future Fund from the Senate crossbench.
Speaking on ABC Radio Melbourne this morning Anthony Albanese was asked about the fund, and what would happen to social housing if there was a negative return.
“The Greens are saying they have what they want is more than $10 billion in this fund,” Albanese said.
“Therefore they’ll vote for zero. It is a completely illogical action.”
The prime minister was also asked what would happen if the fund had a negative return in any given year, and would that lead to no social housing being built from the fund.
“No because you’re putting up a hypothetical which won’t happen. The truth is that what we will do is allocate the dividends based upon the existing future funding, of course makes substantial revenue and it would make revenue we would be budgeting for investment just like when we first came to office,” Albanese told host Raf Epstein this morning.
He was also asked about whether he believed the waitlist for social housing would shrink.
“I am confident that working with state and territory governments we can achieve that,” was the prime minister’s response.
“Absolutely. I think that is clearly the objective.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese asked about Trump indictment
By Caroline Schelle
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese won’t comment on reports from the US that former President Donald Trump has been indicted over alleged hush money payments.
He was asked on ABC Radio Melbourne this morning about his thoughts on the news.
“I’m not going to comment on the internal legal processes of the United States,” Albanese said this morning.
“I think that is really a matter for them. We are friends with the United States. I regard President Biden as a friend.
“I have a terrific relationship with him … I’ll be very pleased to welcome him to Australia in May.”
The case against Trump arises from an investigation led by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and could reshape the 2024 presidential race.
Trump previously said he would continue campaigning for the Republican Party’s nomination if charged with a crime.
With AP, Reuters.
‘Our values haven’t changed’, Albanese says on wages
By Angus Thompson
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stopped short of saying he wanted a minimum wage rise in line with the rate of inflation.
However, he said his values haven’t changed since he “absolutely” backed an increase to meet inflation during last year’s election.
The federal government has foreshadowed its submission to the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage review will ask the industrial umpire to ensure the real wages of Australia’s low-paid workers do not go backwards.
But it cautioned the submission didn’t suggest that all wages should automatically increase in line with inflation, “or that inflation is the only factor the Fair Work Commission should consider”.
During an interview with ABC radio in Melbourne, Albanese was asked the same question he was asked during the election, about whether he would support an increase to the minimum wage in line with inflation, which was the quarterly rate of 5.1 at the time.
Host Raf Epstein replaced last year’s figure with the current monthly inflation rate of 6.8 per cent.
“Our values haven’t changed. If the Fair Work Commission was to determine that people not go backwards. Would I welcome that? Absolutely,” Albanese said.
Asked again if he would want the minimum wage to go up by at least 6.8 per cent, Albanese said, “that’s not right. What it is, is that our values have changed.”
However, he said the Fair Work Commission should take into account Australians on the minimum wage “spend every dollar that they get.”
Trump faces criminal charges in New York
In breaking news, Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury after a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels. Trump has become the first former US president to face criminal charges, even as he makes another run for the White House, The New York Times reported.
The charges, arising from an investigation led by Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, could reshape the 2024 presidential race. Trump previously said he would continue campaigning for the Republican Party’s nomination if charged with a crime.
Trump, 76, sought re-election in 2020 but was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden.
But the former president falsely claimed he lost to Biden due to widespread voting fraud and has called the investigation that led to his indictment a “political witch hunt.”
Bragg’s office last year won the criminal conviction of the businessman-turned-politician’s real estate company.
A grand jury convened by Bragg in January began hearing evidence about Trump’s role in the payment to Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election that he ended up winning.
Daniels, a well-known adult film actress and director whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she received the money in exchange for keeping silent about a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006.
Chalmers seeks bipartisan approach to any RBA overhaul
By Shane Wright
Treasurer Jim Chalmers will seek to reach common ground with the Coalition for any overhaul of the Reserve Bank in a bid to avoid a political fight that could undermine the institution’s independence and standing in financial markets.
Chalmers said he had been encouraged by his Coalition counterpart Angus Taylor’s attitude towards, and efforts to engage with, the independent panel that will deliver its review of the RBA to the treasurer on Friday.
The review, the first of the bank since 1981, is expected to make a series of recommendations to Chalmers that would, if implemented, deliver the biggest overhaul of the RBA since it embraced inflation targeting in the early 1990s.
Safeguard mechanism has multibillion-dollar price tag for industry
By Mike Foley and Nick Toscano
Australia’s biggest polluters face a combined carbon offset bill of between $2 billion and $9 billion by 2030 under the government’s new climate policy, but major manufacturers say their lower emissions reduction target under the safeguard mechanism will spare consumers from significant flow-on costs.
The mechanism, which for the first time will impose carbon emissions limits on the 215 industrial polluters that generate more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas a year, was approved by the federal parliament on Thursday, passing the Senate with the support of the Greens.
It returned to the lower house for approval of the final bill and passed by 89 to 50 votes with Labor, the Greens and most independents supporting it. The Coalition and Bob Katter voted against it, but in a sign of Liberal dissent, Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer abstained.
Birmingham probed on Dutton’s leadership
By Caroline Schelle
The Liberals’ senate leader has been probed on whether the Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s leadership will be determined on the outcome of the Aston byelection.
Simon Birmingham spoke on RN Breakfast about the byelection to be held in Melbourne’s east tomorrow, and was asked if Dutton’s leadership depended on the outcome.
“I don’t think that’s the case,” he said.
“And I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to try to project forward, Roshena has worked very hard through this byelection campaign. Peter has been and I believe will be again, in Aston before people vote, working with her campaigning with her.”
The Liberal Party clung on to Aston at the 2022 election, but the margin was slashed from 10.1 per cent to 2.8 per cent as Labor candidate Mary Doyle pushed scandal-plagued former minister Alan Tudge into marginal seat territory.
My colleague James Massola, wrote the Liberal leader faces a critical test of his leadership, with some federal party MPs arguing a defeat could end his time in the position.
‘I don’t wish to see a referendum fail’: Simon Birmingham
By Caroline Schelle
The Liberals’ foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham has been questioned about the Voice referendum this morning.
Speaking on RN Breakfast this morning the senator was also asked about why Opposition Leader Peter Dutton wasn’t in the chamber when the Voice referendum bill was introduced yesterday.
Host Patricia Karvelas asked: What signal do you think that sends to people on the Voice?
Birmingham said he didn’t think it meant anything.
“I’m not sure that it’s intended to send any particular signal … I can say that for the introduction of virtually any bill there are very few members of parliament,” he said.
But the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate said he didn’t want the Voice referendum to fail.
“I’ve been a longtime supporter of recognition. I don’t wish to see a referendum fail. And I want to see this process considered very, very carefully for Australia,” he said.
“Ultimately, I trust that we will continue to engage in this process carefully. And engaging carefully.”
‘Tight but we will get there’, Dutton says of Aston byelection
By Caroline Schelle
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says the Aston byelection race will be tight but believes the Liberals will hold the seat.
Speaking on Nine’s Today show this morning Dutton was asked about the byelection, which was prompted after former Liberal cabinet minister Alan Tudge resigned earlier this year.
“I think it is tight, but we will get there,” he said this morning.
“It is a tight race as byelections always are.”
He said Liberal candidate Roshena Campbell was a strong voice on the ground and was well received by locals.
“She’s [Campbell’s] got a track record of delivering for her community. Labor’s first act in their budget last year was to cut road funding and locals here are starting to bank up in traffic now on their way to work understand that,” Dutton said.
He urged voters to back Campbell, who would be a strong local candidate.
“She is the strongest candidate in the field and I think she will be a great MP,” he said.
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