How Richard Di Natale 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 Richard Di Natale Supporters vote Division outcome

23rd Jul 2019, 3:46 PM – Senate Committees - Environment and Communications References Committee - Reference

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The majority voted in favour of a motion introduced by Tasmanian Senator Nick McKim (Greens), which means it passed and the inquiry was formed.

Motion text

That the following matters be referred to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report by the third sitting day of December 2019:

(a) disclosure and public reporting of sensitive and classified information, including the appropriate regime for warrants regarding journalists and media organisations and adequacy of existing legislation;

(b) the whistleblower protection regime and protections for public sector employees;

(c) the adequacy of referral practices of the Australian Government in relation to leaks of sensitive and classified information;

(d) appropriate culture, practice and leadership for Government and senior public employees;

(e) mechanisms to ensure that the Australian Federal Police have sufficient independence to effectively and impartially carry out their investigatory and law enforcement responsibilities in relation to politically sensitive matters; and

(f) any related matters.

Yes Yes Passed by a small majority

22nd Jul 2019, 4:03 PM – Senate Documents - Commissioner of Taxation - Order for the Production of Documents

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The majority voted against a motion introduced by South Australian Senator Rex Patrick (Centre Alliance), which means it failed.

Motion text

(1) That the Senate notes that—

(a) on 12 October 2017, Mr Richard Boyle made a disclosure under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) as a former employee of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), alleging the ATO:

(i) had instructed employees to issue standard garnishee notices to seize funds from taxpayers' bank accounts without notice or consideration of their personal and business circumstances, and

(ii) in doing so, had required employees to engage in conduct that was unethical, unprofessional and against the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct;

(b) on 27 October 2017, the ATO decided not to further investigate Mr Boyle's disclosure on the basis that the information did not concern serious disclosable conduct as defined in the PID Act; and

(c) subsequent media inquiries found anomalies in the ATO's debt collection practices that appeared consistent with Mr Boyle's disclosure.

(2) That the Senate is of the opinion that examining the ATO's actions in relation to Mr Boyle's disclosure is consistent with the Senate's role in providing oversight of government administration.

(3) That the Senate orders the Commissioner of Taxation to provide all documents relating to the disclosure generated or received by Mr Boyle's supervisor, authorised officer and principal officer (as defined in the PID Act) including but not limited to notes, minutes, memoranda, letters, other external or internal correspondence, emails and/or Microsoft Office Communicator (MOC) conversations to the Economics Legislation Committee (the committee) by no later than 5 pm on 30 July 2019.

(4) That the committee, when it has considered the documents, report to the Senate as to whether the ATO's handling of disclosures by whistleblowers warrants further inquiry.

Yes Yes Not passed by a modest majority

4th Jul 2019, 12:49 PM – Senate Committees - Joint Select Committee into the Public's Right to Know and Press Freedom - Appointment

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The same number of senators voted for and against the motion introduced by NSW Senator Kristina Keneally, which means that it failed. The motion related to setting up a joint select committee to inquire into and report on the appropriate balance between the public's right to know, the freedom of the press and Australia's national security.

Motion text

(1) That a joint select committee, to be known as the Joint Select Committee into the Public's Right to Know and Press Freedom, be established to inquire into and report on the appropriate balance between the public's right to know, the freedom of the press and Australia's national security, with particular reference to:

(a) disclosure and public reporting of sensitive and classified information, including the appropriate regime for warrants regarding journalists and media organisations and adequacy of existing legislation;

(b) the whistleblower protection regime and protections for public sector employees;

(c) the adequacy of referral practices of the Australian Government in relation to leaks of sensitive and classified information;

(d) appropriate culture, practice and leadership for Government and senior public employees;

(e) mechanisms to ensure that the Australian Federal Police have sufficient independence to effectively and impartially carry out their investigatory and law enforcement responsibilities in relation to politically sensitive matters; and

(f) any related matters.

(2) That the committee should provide an interim report by 19 September 2019 and a final report by 28 November 2019.

(3) That the committee consist of 8 members of the House of Representatives and 8 senators, as follows:

(a) 3 members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Government Whip or Whips;

(b) 4 members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Opposition Whip or Whips;

(c) 1 member of the House of Representatives nominated by the Member for Clark;

(d) 3 senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate;

(e) 3 senators nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate;

(f) 1 senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens; and

(g) 1 senator from Centre Alliance.

(4) That:

(a) participating members may be appointed to the committee on the nomination of the Government Whip in the House of Representatives, the Opposition Whip in the House of Representatives, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or any minority party or independent senator or member of the House of Representatives; and

(b) participating members may participate in hearings of evidence and deliberations of the committee, and have all the rights of members of the committee, but may not vote on any questions before the committee.

(5) That 3 members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee, provided that in a deliberative meeting the quorum shall include one Government member of either House and one non-Government member of either House.

(6) That every nomination of a member of the committee be notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

(7) That the members of the committee hold office as a joint select committee until the House of Representatives is dissolved or expires by effluxion of time.

(8) That the committee may proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that not all members have been duly nominated and appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.

(9) That the committee elect as chair one of the members nominated by the Opposition Whip in the House of Representatives or the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and as deputy chair one of the members nominated by Government Whip in the House of Representatives or the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

(10) That the deputy chair shall act chair when the chair is absent from a meeting of the committee or the position of chair is temporarily vacant.

(11) That, in the event of an equality of voting, the chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, have a casting vote.

(12) That the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of 3 or more of its members, and to refer to any such subcommittee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider.

(13) That the committee and any subcommittee have power to send for and examine persons and documents, to move from place to place, to sit in public or in private, notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken and such interim recommendations as it may deem fit.

(14) That the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee with the approval of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

(15) That the committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it, and a daily Hansard be published of such proceedings as take place in public.

(16) That the committee have power to adjourn from time to time and to sit during any adjournment of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

(17) That a message be sent to the House of Representatives seeking its concurrence in this resolution.

Yes Yes Not passed

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.

No 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.

Yes 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.

absent 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.

Yes Yes Not passed by a modest majority

How "voted moderately for" 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 1 50 50
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
MP absent 2 50 100
Less important votes (10 points)      
MP voted with policy 5 50 50
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
Less important absentees (2 points)      
MP absent* 1 1 2
Total: 151 202

*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 = 151 / 202 = 75%.

And then