The results of the first independent assessment of whistleblowing laws across the G20 countries was released in the lead-up to the Australian-hosted G20 Leaders’ summit in Brisbane in November 2014 – showing the importance of continued G20 action in support of whistleblower protection, especially in the private sector.Â The assessment, ‘Whistleblower Protection Laws in G20 Countries: Priorities for Action’, was jointly conducted by Blueprint for Free Speech, Griffith University, University of Melbourne and TI Australia. It was another major outcome of the joint Transparency International and Griffith University conference on Corruption, Integrity Systems and the G20 held in June 2014.
A major summary of the G20′s integrity and anti-corruption priorities has been published by the Lowy Institute for International Policy, in its G20 Monitor (No. 13).Â TI Australia director A J Brown also spoke to the paper, ‘Why anti-corruption remains a vital element of the G20 leadersâ€™ agenda’, in a lecture to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library in Parliament House, Canberra on 3 September 2104 (video and slides available here).
Below is aÂ transcript of an interview broadcast on the ABC AM program on Wednesday 10 September 2014
Australia behind world benchmark on whistleblower protection
CHRIS UHLMANN: An extensive review of whistleblower protection laws has found Australia lags a long way behind other countries.
Melbourne and Griffith University researchers compared the protections offered by all G20 countries and found Australia has significant room for improvement – particularly in the private sector where they are weak or non-existent.
AM’s Will Ockenden spoke to the main whistleblower behind bribery revelations at the Reserve Bank’s Note Printing Australia.
WILL OCKENDEN: If you look the term “whistleblower” up in a thesaurus, the synonyms carry overwhelmingly negative connotations:
Canary, squealer, tattletale, weasel, nark and snitch are just a few – but the benefits whistleblowers provide are rarely mentioned.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: They ensure that taxpayer money isn’t wasted on fraudulent activities. They ensure that our consumer products we buy at the supermarket or cars, that sort of thing, are safer.
WILL OCKENDEN: Suelette Dreyfus is one of the authors of the whistleblowing review report.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: What whistleblowing is, is a kind of collective moral conscience. It’s quite a cost effective way for stopping things like fraud in companies and in governments.
WILL OCKENDEN: In the lead up to the G20 in Brisbane later in the year, the group from Melbourne and Griffith Universities, Blueprint for Free Speech and Transparency International Australia, has released its final report.
It reviews the legislation which protects whistleblowers in both the public and private sectors in each G20 country.
The G20 has identified fighting corruption as a major part of its agenda, saying it results in losses of around $1 trillion in revenue every year.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: The G20 countries made a commitment in both 2010 and 2012 to protect whistleblowers.
WILL OCKENDEN: The report found that protections for whistleblowers in Australia for the public sector were fairly good, but the same doesn’t apply for the private sector.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: While there’s been significant advances over the last few years compared to where we were at in say 2010, there’s still a ways to travel. And the biggest area that needs some attention is around whistleblower protection laws applying to the private sector.
WILL OCKENDEN: Suelette Dreyfus says Australia comes in around the middle of the countries in the G20, behind similar countries like the US and the UK.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: You know, it rates not as well as Korea, the UK, South Africa and France, as an example.
WILL OCKENDEN: Do you think that we should strive to be higher on that list, or is about the middle – given it’s I guess mathematically average – okay?
SUELETTE DREYFUS: I don’t think that average is good enough, really. Australia should be charging ahead and leading the way in private sector coverage as well. And there’s no reason not to. It’s made a commitment to do this.
WILL OCKENDEN: Brian Hood* is a former company secretary at the Reserve Bank-owned Note Printing Australia and he blew the whistle on bribery and kickbacks allegations. He says his experience was not pleasant.
BRIAN HOOD: The process, in a nutshell, didn’t work well for me. I didn’t get the sort of protection that I expected. I lost my job. I was made redundant.
WILL OCKENDEN: He says while legal protection is important, there also needs to be the willingness to follow up on cases, and regulators with teeth.
BRIAN HOOD: I’d like to see for people now a very clear process – something that’s written down, black and white, not only the whistleblower has to follow but that the organisation would be obliged to follow as well.
CHRIS UHLMANN: The man who blew the whistle on Note Printing Australia, Brian Hood, ending Will Ockenden’s report.
*EDITOR’S NOTE (10 Sept 2013) In the broadcast, Brian Hood was incorrectly referred to as Colin Hood. This has been corrected in the transcript.
To listen to the interview go to http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2014/s4084511.htm