Momentous vote by Parliament to protect whistleblower communications

Kieran Adair

October 30, 2021

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Federal MPs have voted to ensure that parliamentary proceedings are protected in the legal action launched by ClubsNSW against Troy and Dianne Stolz.

Troy Stolz is a former ClubsNSW anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing compliance manager who exposed the sector’s alleged failure to comply with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. Last year, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie used a report provided by Stolz to inform parliament that up to 95% of clubs in NSW were “operating illegally” when it came to following anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws. Earlier this year the Federal Court ruled that documents exchanged between Stolz and Andrew Wilkie MP and his office be handed over to ClubsNSW.

An overwhelming number of parliamentarians passed a motion that considers emails Stolz exchanged with Wilkie are “likely to fall within the definition of ‘proceedings of Parliament’.”

“This is a momentous step by the parliament. Our clients, Troy and Dianne Stolz, are very grateful for this timely intervention” Nick Xenophon, who is representing Stolz, said.

The decision has been seen as a test of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987, and whether it provides protection to whistleblowers who provide information to members of parliament. Parliament’s intervention may not necessarily prevent the Court from using the documents but could limit how they might be used.

Mr Xenophon said: “Whatever the outcome, this could be a significant precedent for years to come regarding the extent to which parliamentary privilege affords protection to whistleblowers.”

Speaking in support of the motion, Wilkie said “this isn’t the first time that I have come into the parliament, informed directly by brave whistleblowers, and brought to the public’s attention issues of great public importance in cases where the whistleblowers had nowhere else to turn.”

“The substantive matter is not that Troy Stolz gave me a board paper from ClubsNSW. The substantive matter… is that almost all registered clubs in New South Wales are, or at least were, not complying with anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing legislation.”

Speaking in favour of the motion, Labor MP Tony Burke stressed the importance of protecting communication between MPs and the public, arguing that “anything less than that means we no longer have free debate in this House.”

“This resolution is really important for this reason: if we’re to have free debate in this House, it is essential that people be protected in their communications with us.”

Mr Xenophon said “A win for whistleblowers is a win for the public. We need to make it as simple, easy and safe for people to raise serious concerns in the public interest with elected members of parliament. We and our clients are celebrating this heartening decision.”

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Written By Kieran Adair

Kieran Adair is a reporter for Xenophon Davis, covering government accountability, civil liberties, and whistleblower trials. He has previously written for the Michael West, Guardian Australia, and Sydney Criminal Lawyers. Twitter: @kieranadair_

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