How Cory Bernardi voted compared to someone who believes that the federal government should introduce legislation to protect people who disclose information for the benefit of the public interest

Division Cory Bernardi Supporters vote Division outcome

14th May 2015, 3:43 PM – Senate Australian Border Force Bill 2015 and related bill - Third Reading - Pass the bill

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The majority agreed to pass the bills in the Senate (in parliamentary jargon, they voted in favour of giving the bills a third reading). The bills will now be sent back to the House of Representatives for the Members of Parliament to decide whether they agree with the Senators' amendments. If so, the bills will become law.

You can follow the bills progress through Parliament on the bills' websites (see under 'External links').

How to find out more about the bills

Go to the bills digest to learn more about what the bills do and what issues they raise.

Controversy

Clause 42 of the Australian Border Force Bill 2015 makes it an offence for an "entrusted person" (which includes Immigration and Border Protection workers) to make a record of confidential information or to disclose confidential information. See the bills digest for more information about the exceptions to this offence.

Comments in the media have suggested that this clause could lead to doctors being charged under this offence for revealing conditions in detention centres.

Yes No (strong) Passed by a modest majority

14th May 2015, 1:58 PM – Senate Australian Border Force Bill 2015 and related bill - in Committee - Public interest amendment

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The majority voted against an amendment introduced by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (SA), which means it was unsuccessful.

What did the amendment do?

This amendment relates to Clause 42 of the Australian Border Force Bill 2015, which makes it an offence for an "entrusted person" (which includes Immigration and Border Protection workers) to make a record of confidential information or to disclose confidential information.

Senator Hanson-Young explained her amendment:

The amendment I have circulated deals very specifically with that. It is very simple. It is not saying that everyone can go and blow their whistles as much as they want; it is saying that if there is any type of offence then it needs to be tested against the public interest. That is a decision that the courts should make. It is not a decision for the minister. ... This amendment is important to ensure that there is an independent arbiter, and it must be the courts that stand up for the right of the public service and the right of the Australian people to know what is in the public interest and what information their government is trying to hide from them.

Background to the amendment

Senator Hanson-Young's amendment reflects previous recommendations made by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) in 2010 in respect to a similar provision int he Crimes Act that applies generally to Commonwealth public servants. Just like Senator Hanson-Young's amendment, the ALRC had recommended that criminal sanctions in law should only apply where disclosure of information would or would likely harm an identifiable public interest. However, those recommendations have yet to be acted on.

Amendment text

(1) Clause 42, page 35 (after line 13), after paragraph (1)(b), insert:

(ba) the making of the record, or the disclosure, causes, is likely to cause, or is intended to cause, harm to a public interest.

How to find out more about the bills

Go to the bills digest to learn more about what the bills do and what issues they raise.

No Yes Not passed by a modest majority

25th Sep 2014, 9:31 PM – Senate National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 - Third Reading - Pass the bill

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The majority supported passing the bill in the Senate (in parliamentary jargon, they voted to give the bill a third reading). The bill will now go to the House of Representatives to see if the members of parliament (MPs) agree with the senators and also want to pass the bill. If they do, the bill will become law.

Human rights issues

The bill makes many important changes, which the bills digest discusses in some detail. In particular, it extends the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)

The bill also creates new offences that apply to any person who discloses information that relates to a special intelligence operation (SIO), with a maximum penalty of ten years in jail. Two concerns with these offences are that:

  • they don't have exceptions for public interest disclosures or whistleblowing by ASIO employees, and
  • they apply to any person, including journalists.

Background to the bill

After the major counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and Brisbane, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the balance between freedom and security had to shift (see ABC News). This bill is part of that change.

The bill also seems to be a response to American Edward Snowden leaking classified American intelligence information last year.

Read the bills digest for more information about the bill.

absent No Passed by a modest majority

25th Sep 2014 – Senate National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 - in Committee - Against increase in penalty for unauthorised disclosure

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The majority supported increasing the penalty for unauthorised disclosure of intelligence related information from a maximum of two years to ten years imprisonment. This means they disagreed with Greens Senator Scott Ludlam's amendment that it should be opposed (see his explanation).

Human rights issues

The bill makes many important changes, which the bills digest discusses in some detail. In particular, it extends the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)

Senator Ludlam was particularly concerned about the new offences that apply to any person who discloses information that relates to a special intelligence operation (SIO), with a maximum penalty of ten years in jail. Two concerns with these offences are that:

  • they don't have exceptions for public interest disclosures or whistleblowing by ASIO employees, and
  • they apply to any person, including journalists.

Read more about these offences in the bills digest.

Background to the bill

After the major counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and Brisbane, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the balance between freedom and security had to shift (see ABC News). This bill is part of that change.

The bill also seems to be a response to American Edward Snowden leaking classified American intelligence information last year.

Read the bills digest for more information about the bill.

absent Yes (strong) Not passed by a modest majority

25th Sep 2014 – Senate National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 - in Committee - Remove secrecy provisions

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The majority supported the bill's secrecy provisions, which means they disagreed with Greens Senator Scott Ludlam's amendments that they should be opposed.

These secrecy provisions include deleting subsection 35P(1) from the bill, which would make it an offence punishable by five years' imprisonment for a person to disclose information that relates to a special intelligence operation (SIO) (see Senator Ludlam's explanation of these amendments).

Human rights issues

The bill makes many important changes, which the bills digest discusses in some detail. In particular, it extends the powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)

The bill also creates new offences that apply to any person who discloses information that relates to a special intelligence operation (SIO), with a maximum penalty of ten years in jail. Two concerns with these offences are that:

  • they don't have exceptions for public interest disclosures or whistleblowing by ASIO employees, and
  • they apply to any person, including journalists.

Background to the bill

After the major counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and Brisbane, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the balance between freedom and security had to shift (see ABC News). This bill is part of that change.

The bill also seems to be a response to American Edward Snowden leaking classified American intelligence information last year.

Read the bills digest for more information about the bill.

No Yes (strong) Not passed by a modest majority

19th Mar 2013, 3:47 PM – Senate Motions - Public Interest Disclosure - Protect whistle blowers

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The majority voted against a motion introduced by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam in relation to protection for whistle blowers.

Motion text

That the Senate—

(a) notes:

(i) the resolution of the Senate of 22 November 2012, That the Government was to fulfil its 2007 election commitment and introduce a public interest disclosure bill into the Parliament in the first sitting week of 2013, and

(ii) that this resolution has not been complied with and, to date, there is still no listing of the public interest disclosure bill; and

(b) calls on the Government to:

(i) provide an explanation as to whether it will deliver on its 2007 election commitment, and

(ii) introduce legislation within the current Parliament that would comprehensively protect whistle-blowers across the entire government sector.

absent Yes Not passed by a modest majority

8th Feb 2007, 10:37 AM – Senate Motions - Government Accountability and Transparency - Canadian bill

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The majority voted against a motion introduced by Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Murray (WA), which means it was unsuccessful.

What was the motion?

That the Senate—

(a) notes:

(i) that the Canadian Government has delivered on its commitment to make government more accountable through the Federal Accountability Act, which received Royal Assent on 12 December 2006,

(ii) that through this Act and the associated Action Plan, specific measures will be introduced to help strengthen accountability and increase transparency and oversight in government operations, and

(iii) that the Canadian bill addresses issues which include:

(a) Transparency of donations;

(b) Truth in budgeting;

(c) Protection of whistleblowers;

(d) Strengthening the role of the Auditor-General and the role of the Ethics Commissioner; and

(e) Restrictions on Ministers, ministerial staffers and senior public servants engaging in lobbying after leaving office.

(b) and calls on the Australian Government to consider whether the existing legislative framework in Australia adequately addresses these issues in the interests of Australian democracy.

No Yes Not passed by a small majority

How "voted moderately against" is worked out

The MP's votes count towards a weighted average where the most important votes get 50 points, less important votes get 10 points, and less important votes for which the MP was absent get 2 points. In important votes the MP gets awarded the full 50 points for voting the same as the policy, 0 points for voting against the policy, and 25 points for not voting. In less important votes, the MP gets 10 points for voting with the policy, 0 points for voting against, and 1 (out of 2) if absent.

Then, the number gets converted to a simple english language phrase based on the range of values it's within.

No of votes Points Out of
Most important votes (50 points)      
MP voted with policy 0 0 0
MP voted against policy 2 0 100
MP absent 1 25 50
Less important votes (10 points)      
MP voted with policy 0 0 0
MP voted against policy 2 0 20
Less important absentees (2 points)      
MP absent* 2 2 4
Total: 27 174

*Pressure of other work means MPs or Senators are not always available to vote – it does not always indicate they have abstained. Therefore, being absent on a less important vote makes a disproportionatly small difference.

Agreement score = MP's points / total points = 27 / 174 = 16%.

And then