MP who is fighting for freedom of the press
WHEN Andrew Wilkie blew the whistle on the flawed intelligence case of the Iraq war he was so concerned he would be jailed he got all his finances in order and handed his apartment keys to a friend.
The independent MP built a public profile in 2003 when he spoke out against the war and resigned from his position as a high-level intelligence officer a week before the US-led coalition invaded Iraq.
Mr Wilkie had access to privileged material which he said formed his view that the case for war “was dishonest”.
His claims that Iraq likely did not possess weapons of mass destruction, was not a threat to Western powers and was not a haven of al-Qaeda have since been vindicated by a report of Britain’s Chilcot Inquiry.
No such inquiry has been undertaken in Australia, which Mr Wilkie said had left the then government of John Howard with “blood on its hands”.
“There still hasn’t been a proper inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the war … the perpetrators haven’t been held to account,” Mr Wilkie said.
“The Chilcot Inquiry was very critical of (former British prime minister) Tony Blair, but nothing has been done here and I think people need to be held to account.”
Mr Wilkie said he felt the public in 2003 had a right to know about the material he’d obtained and said he thought he would be imprisoned for his exposure.
“The government could’ve detained me and charged me but they didn’t and I think that was because it was a hot media topic and I would’ve been cast as a political prisoner,” he said. “I was so concerned I was going to be locked up I made sure I got everything in order and left my apartment key with a friend.
“It was an extremely stressful time, I was actually enjoying my job and had a bright future in intelligence but I instantly lost that.
“I was called a traitor, received death threats, lost friends, my marriage failed and it cost me enormous amounts of money. It was very challenging emotionally.”
Mr Wilkie this week protested in support of press freedom.
“There needs to be effective protections for media enshrined in law,” he said. “There also needs to be effective protection for whistleblowers. Any restrictions on the media, except on genuine national security grounds, are … the stuff of a police state.”