The New Liberals - Michaela Banerji
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Michaela Banerji

Senior Policy Advisor on Whistleblowers and Freedom of Political Communication

In the case of ABC v Lena Game Meats, his Honour Justice Michael Kirby explains the Implied Freedom of Political Communication. He explains that the Australian Constitution sets out the framework for our political circumstances as a democracy. This means that just as we must hear that which our government tells us, our government must also hear that which we tell government. Such “telling” also includes criticism.

It happened that, as a Commonwealth public servant I took this explanation to heart and having joined Twitter as part of my job, and knowing Refugee Law, I saw my government’s actions towards asylum seekers and, in my own time, made comment, under an alias, about our responsibilities under the Refugee Convention, which ironically, we had helped to draft many years ago. I was discovered and my employment was terminated. Eventually, in Comcare v Banerji 2019, the High Court of Australia decided that public servants had no such right to criticise government not only when they are at work but at all times. And this was despite the Administrative Appeals Tribunal saying that it was a logical impossibility for a public servant who wasn’t know to be a public servant, by the people they were addressing, breaching their duty as a public servant. Public servants have essentially been silenced.

It is with sadness that I have followed the case of Julian Assange since 2012, and that of William McBride recently. A whistleblower is driven to act only when their rational voice is not permitted to be heard. Australia has much to learn and much to improve on in this aspect of civilian life. I hope that as Senior Policy Advisor on Freedom of Political Communication and Whistleblowers, I can do my part to protect those who are trying to protect the Australian people from corruption and breach of duty within government.