Anti-whistleblowing law being used to pursue Save the Children staff used only twice in five years

Only two people over five years have been charged using the anti-whistleblowing section of the Crimes Act the federal government is using to pursue Save the Children staff, according to the Australian Federal Police.

Section 70 of the Crimes Act is being used by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison against 10 staff from the aid organisation on Nauru accused of communicating privileged information to non-Commonwealth workers.

He has referred the matter to the AFP for investigation.

Yet in the past five years, only two people have been charged with the rarely used section of the Crimes Act, of whom one was imprisoned. They were both charged with the offence of disclosing information, the AFP told Fairfax Media.

"As a result one person was sentenced to six months imprisonment, commuted to a two-year good behaviour bond and fined $1000," a spokeswoman from the AFP said.

The Immigration Department has ordered the 10 Save the Children staff, who were on the island to provide counselling and social support to children in detention, to be removed from Nauru for alleged misuse of privileged information.

Last week, legal experts criticised Mr Morrison's use of Section 70, saying it was "draconian" and has been used as a scare tactic against workers who speak out.

The section prohibits any person employed by the Commonwealth to send information to a non-government officer. The penalty is two years imprisonment.

Mr Morrison's referral of the 10 workers to the AFP came only days after serious allegations of abuse of women and children emerged on the island. The Minister has initiated an independent investigation into both issues.

The AFP has since been asked to investigate Mr Morrison under the same law by Greens immigration spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, who says he and his staff may have contravened the section by supplying select information from a Transfield security report to a journalist.

The report claimed it was "probable" that Save the Children staff were encouraging asylum seekers to self harm.

Save the Children have rejected the claims and is standing by its staff.

The AFP have said they will "evaluate" both matters as per usual process.

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The story Anti-whistleblowing law being used to pursue Save the Children staff used only twice in five years first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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