Lobby group threatens to come down hard on ClubsNSW whistleblower
The powerful New South Wales club lobby is considering proceedings against two journalists who had interactions with a whistleblower that made explosive allegations against the state’s pokies venues.
The Guardian reports that ClubsNSW whistleblower Troy Stolz said that an attempt to force journalists from the ABC and Sydney Morning Herald to hand over their correspondence with him is a “disgrace”.
“It’s a public interest matter that affects all communities,” he said.
“It’s a national security issue. They are trying to silence the media from telling the truth.”
ClubsNSW’s lawyers recently wrote to Mr Stolz asking that he give the group access to an encrypted Protonmail account, which he used to communicate with ABC journalist Steve Cannane and the Herald journalist Nick O’Malley.
The letter warned that ClubsNSW may compel the two media outlets to hand over their correspondence with Mr Stolz.
“ClubsNSW is not only entitled to investigate the extent of Mr Stolz’s unauthorised disclosure of its confidential information, but to also recover any of its confidential information subject to such disclosure,” the letter said.
“ClubsNSW is presently considering invoking the court’s power to compel the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to produce their communications with Mr Stolz.
Mr Stolz had been given until 4pm on Tuesday to tell the lobby group whether he will “object to this course of action”.
Dedicated legal service set up to help whistleblowers
The Human Rights Law Centre has revealed it is in the early stages of setting up a dedicated whistleblower’s legal service, which would help whistleblowers who speak up in the public interest.
“Thanks to courageous individuals, we know about misconduct in our parliament, in our banks, at our government agencies and in our military,” an HRLC senior lawyer Kieran Pender said.
“But Australia’s whistleblowers are suffering.
“Eighty per cent of those who speak up suffer workplace retaliation. Some of Australia’s most high-profile whistleblowers are currently facing jail time for doing the right thing.”
In 2020, Mr Stolz blew the whistle on the failure to stop money laundering in pubs and clubs across New South Wales.
Mr Stolz was the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing manager at ClubsNSW.
He and other lobby groups have been locked in a series of overlapping court disputes with ClubsNSW since.
Independent MP calls for Parliament’s action in whistleblower case
Mr Stolz lodged an unfair dismissal case after his employment was terminated, while ClubsNSW has alleged Mr Stolz breached its confidentiality by disclosing internal information.
The Gedera Court had ordered Mr Stolz to hand over his communications with the independent MP Andrew Wilkie last week, before Mr Wilkie’s unsuccessful attempt to table a document in parliament showing that just five to 10 per cent of NSW’s registered clubs were complying with anti-money laundering laws.
After the court decision, Mr Wilkie warned he would “have a lot to say and do” about parliamentary privilege, which, in some cases, protects correspondence with constituents.
He has since requested that parliament consider intervening in the case, saying “if we don’t act no one will and parliamentary privilege will be eroded.”
“It’s obviously important that the house protects itself against all acts or omissions, which obstruct or impede the house in the performance of its functions, which is why I ask you to consider giving precedence to a motion to refer to the Committee Privileges and Members Interests whether the parliament should intervene in this case to protect privilege,” Mr Wilkie said.
The Speaker is considering the request.