MP who is fight­ing for free­dom of the press

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

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.”

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