As I write this article, it’s Saturday afternoon and everything is supposed to be right with the world.
Right around Australia, people are having a good time.
Many of us are spending quality time with our families, creating memories that will warm our hearts for our whole lives.
Many of us are pursuing our passions, experiencing new sensations and concepts that will stimulate our minds for a long time to come.
And many of us are reveling in the physical strength of our bodies through sport, building muscles and skills that will delight us for years.
Saturday afternoon is a good time for most of us. A time when it feels good to be alive.
But for at least two people today, Saturday afternoon is not a good time.
The Australian newspaper reported today that at least two employees of the NBN company had been stood down from their duties, as a result of the Australian Federal Police investigation into ongoing leaks at that company.
This little fact appears to have been largely lost today.
Most articles on this subject will ignore this snippet of information and focus purely on the political furore that has arisen over the past week as the AFP raided Labor party offices over the leaks.
What happens to two NBN staffers is, it appears, far less important than knowing which Minister knew what and when. The Australian itself buried the news about these two staffers on paragraph 17.
Now, I personally do not know who these NBN staffers are.
I do not know their names. I do not know their positions. I do not know how long they have been with the NBN company.
But, if it is true that they leaked information about the NBN, I do know two things about them.
The first thing I know about them is that they strongly believe in the public interest: In doing the right thing and being a good person.
There is no money in being a whistleblower.
There is no real fame, although there may be infamy.
There is no personal advantage.
All you you gain from leaking sensitive information about your employer to the media is the knowledge that you are doing the right thing and that this may, somehow, have a positive impact.
I have dealt with hundreds of whistleblowers in the last 15 years that I have been a journalist.
They have always acted from the same motivation: A desire to serve the public interest.
They come to me with information because they know that I feel the same way.
These are responsible people doing good work who see bad things happening in front of them.
They see people lying. People cheating. People stealing.
And so they decide that it is their responsibility to tell the public about it.
It is not enough for these people merely to live. They — and I — feel that they must live in the right way. Ethically, thoughtfully, doing the right thing for society in general.
It’s not hard to see why whistleblowers would exist within the ranks of the NBN company.
The whole history of Malcolm Turnbull’s involvement with the NBN project over the past five and a half years has been riddled with injustice.
Since it took power in September 2013, the Coalition has done a great deal to demolish Australia’s largest ever infrastructure project.
The NBN, as created by Labor, was a visionary project which would have ensured Australia’s broadband needs for the next century were met.
Under the Coalition, it has become a laughing stock; a farce; a political plaything and a swirling cauldron of spin.
It would have been extremely difficult for any publicly minded NBN employee to sit by and watch the project that they believed in sink to these lows.
So of course there have been leaks. Of course there have been whistleblowers.
Any time injustice exists, those who serve the public interest will rise to meet that injustice.
But this brings me to the second thing I know about these whistleblowers.
I do not know if the allegations against these two NBN staffers are true. I do not know what they did, or anything associated with their circumstances.
But if they are true, I know they are suffering.
There is no money, fame or personal advantage to be gained from becoming a whistleblower.
But there is a great deal of risk.
There is risk to your livelihood. Many whistleblowers end up losing their jobs and suffer financially.
There is risk to your reputation. Many of your colleagues will turn their backs on you.
And there is an even greater personal risk: That you will suffer psychologically from all of the factors associated with blowing the whistle.
The essence of being a whistleblower is that you sacrifice your own interest to the public interest.
Today it appears that cost has come crashing down on the heads of two NBN staffers.
With this in mind, I have one message to them, if they did indeed blow the whistle.
You’re not alone.
We’re with you.
I, many Delimiter readers, many of your fellow NBN employees (past and present) and many Australians in general, are with you.
You attempted to shine a light on the truth about this grand NBN project. You tried to do the right thing, and you believed in what you were doing.
You will suffer, as a result. Things will go bad for you. Life will be tough.
Your Saturday afternoons may feel black and dead for some time.
But hold your head up high.
Because you have honour. You have integrity. In a time of great darkness, you stood up for what was right and good.
You served the public interest. You served your country. You strengthened our democracy.
So remember this, and stay strong. Hold your head up high.
We’re with you.