A series of damning headlines had raised the pressure in Australia's halls of power.
Inside Parliament House in 2018, it was public servants, not politicians, who were feeling the heat.
The Department of Parliamentary Services had decided to find the source of leaks to senators and the press, after revelations about a string of controversies had made their way from the secretive confines of the building into Senate estimates hearings and national newspapers.
They had exposed problems inside the department - embarrassing its officials and raising questions about its handling of major contracts and security alerts.
In one episode revealed through Senate estimates questioning, a senior security executive had tasted a suspicious "white powder" to determine it was not a hazardous threat. The incident raised questions about the judgment of its staff handling potential emergencies.
Senate estimates hearings had also revealed the agency lost a 1000-page document, which held confidential information about Parliament House's $126 million security upgrades.
National newspapers had joined the fray, revealing questions had been raised over the "lifestyle" choices of the contractor responsible for the delayed multi-million dollar upgrades that blew the department's initial budget for the project.
Somewhere, information was reaching senators and journalists. The department, and its secretary Rob Stefanic, moved to plug the leaks.
One whistleblower fell afoul of the DPS' clamp-down and lost his job when the department intercepted his attempted disclosure to a senator.
Many of the details of the saga remain under lock and key after a federal court judge ruled they be subject to a suppression order.
The incident has raised questions about protections for whistleblowers and prompted renewed calls from legal and human rights experts for an urgent overhaul of Australia's whistleblower laws - a task recognised by both Labor and Coalition figures as overdue.
Blowing the whistle from within Australia's chambers of secrets
The DPS ultimately sacked the whistleblower after mail he had attempted to send to a Labor senator staffer came into the possession of top officials.
On October 15, 2018, an envelope containing an attempted external public interest disclosure arrived at Parliament House.
It was sent by the whistleblower, a security officer called David*, later known as ACD-13 in the federal court, who had worked in Parliament House for two decades.
He had been in contact with a staffer in a senior Labor senator's office, who asked him to send it ahead of the coming week's estimates hearing.
It's alleged to have contained sensitive information that would provide additional information not on the public record, which could embarrass agency heads - and the government - about a series of high-profile blunders.
But the envelope containing the information never made it to the senator's office that Monday.
Instead, it was opened by someone and later examined that afternoon by senior officials who would comb through the documents wearing rubber gloves and later hand it to Mr Stefanic for safe-keeping in his office.
The two senior officials claimed they were trying to determine who the envelope was intended for and were not aware the sender was attempting to send an external disclosure.
Both were aware it was David's mobile number on the back of the envelope written under "sender" prior to inspecting its contents.
The incident made its way to federal court in 2019 when David alleged he had been punished for attempting to send his allegations to people outside the department.
The federal court case, which has been largely suppressed from public record to protect the security officer's identity, was ultimately dismissed as the evidence supplied couldn't determine a link between the attempted leaking and the alleged reprisal against him and his attempted disclosure did not meet the criteria for a valid external disclosure.
However, the judge conceded the laws were "technical, obtuse and intractable" for lawyers, let alone regular public servants hoping to come forward.
Former Senate president Scott Ryan admitted in an estimates hearing years later he had also seen the whistleblower's intercepted documents but had smoothed it over with the Labor senator's office they were intended for.
The documents appeared to never reach the senator's office. Meanwhile, David lost his job following a determination that his actions in attempting to disclose the information to the Senator constituted a breach of the applicable Code of Conduct.
Before sending the documents to the senator's office, David had attempted to follow the rules. He sent details and documents of what he perceived as misconduct in June 2018, following an all-staff email by Mr Stefanic encouraging staff to come forward.
Under the laws, anyone who submits a public interest disclosure can send their claims outside the department 90 days after it is allocated, if an outcome isn't reached.
But an authorised officer wasn't officially allocated until October.
Internal emails show the formal probe into the claims was delayed for more than 100 days, despite DPS policy documents requiring them to start the process within a fortnight of receiving it.
Whistleblower laws 'no longer up to scratch'
The case has heaped further pressure on the new government to reform Australia's complex whistleblowing laws - acknowledged by both Labor and the Coalition as needing an overhaul.
An independent review in 2016 called for sweeping improvements, including simplifying the laws and processes for would-be disclosers, reducing the administrative load for agencies and providing those who come forward with more avenues for support.
Mr Dreyfus said it had been a "great disappointment" to see the law remain unchanged since its introduction, noting he was aware it was "not a perfect scheme".
Last year, then assistant attorney-general Amanda Stoker agreed major reforms were overdue.
Law Council president Tass Liveris said the proposed changes needed to empower whistleblowers to speak out without fear of reprisal if they witness wrongdoings in the workplace.
But he wants to see more than just the shortfalls of the Public Interest Disclosure Act rectified, and that means a whistleblower protection authority to help support those who try to shed light on perceived misconduct.
"There needs to be a more holistic review of the protection of disclosures of wrongdoing throughout government, the corporate sector and in court proceedings," he said.
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Long-time whistleblowing advocate and senior lawyer at Human Rights Law Centre Kieran Pender said the Albanese government must make reforms a priority as it looks to establish an anti-corruption body by the year's end.
"Whistleblowing is an important aspect of democratic accountability, but whistleblower protections for federal public servants are no longer up to scratch," he said.
"For six years the former government sat on important changes to the PID Act, which would have ensured public servants are empowered when they speak up about wrongdoing."
- Mr Stefanic and other officials were approached to respond to detailed questions but declined to offer comments, citing legal advice. Former senator Scott Ryan did not respond to requests for comment.
- *David's real name has not been used to protect his anonymity.