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Whistleblowing Conference: 6 August 2002, Sydney

Whistleblowing: Betrayal or Public Duty?

This was the theme of a well-attended one day conference organised by Transparency International Australia in association with the Corruption Prevention Network (NSW) and Edmund Rice Business Ethics Initiative and sponsored by KPMG Forensic.

The conference was featured by Quentin Dempster on ABC Stateline NSW on 9 August and was the subject of a TI Australia media release Blowing the whistle the same day.

Keynote speaker Commissioner Sitesh Bhojani of ACCC provided background to the Commission’s recently released discussion paper on whistleblowing, outlining a policy of leniency to “first thru the door” whistleblowers. Dr Brian Martin of Whistleblowers Australia and Greg Chilvers of the Police Federation NSW graphically described the problems and even dangers whistleblowers faced in an environment which was often hostile and even more often unsympathetic.

Other speakers included Commonwealth Ombudsman Ron McLeod who argued the need for legislation to encourage whistleblowing in the Commonwealth public service, and BHP-Billiton executive Holly Lindsay who believes BHP-Billiton is an agenda-setter for the private sector through having sensible policies and a global helpline in place for employees who aren’t sure where the corporate dotted lines are drawn when it comes to grey areas such as “facilitation payments”.

Changing the culture of organisations to encourage whistleblowing as a key component of an integral risk management strategy was outlined by Brett Warfield of KPMG, a former investigator with ICAC and Royal Commissions into the construction industry and the police. Mr Warfield argued that hotlines serviced by independent investigators can save both the private and the public sector huge losses incurred through fraud and maladministration.

Next Steps

TI Australia is planning to press for change on two fronts:

  • The introduction of long overdue protected disclosures legislation for the Commonwealth public sector, and
  • New legislation to protect whistleblowers in the private sector and to punish company insiders who fail to reveal serious misconduct to senior company officials, auditors or regulators.

These changes need to be accompanied by effective programs to encourage and protect whistleblowers in order to change entrenched negative perceptions in most organisations.

Outline of Program and Papers

The conference program and Speakers bio’s are available in pdf format as well as some of the papers.
Others will be added as they become available.

Session 1: Whistleblowing: Is there a problem?
Should whistleblowing be encouraged and protected and is it?
Chair: David Landa, Transparency International Australia. Opening Speech
Commissioner Sitesh Bhojani, ACCC
Brian Martin, Whistleblowers Australia Is there a problem?
Greg Chilvers, Police Association of NSW

Session 2: Whistleblowing: Changing the culture
How to encourage internal whistleblowing and to discourage malicious and unfounded allegations, the role of hotlines
Chair: David Van Homrigh, KPMG
Holly Lindsay, BHP-Billiton Perspective on business ethics
Brett Warfield, KPMG Forensic Changing the culture – role of hotlines

Session 3: Whistleblowing: the watchdog agencies
The role of watch-dog agencies in encouraging whistleblowing particularly in relation to fraud prevention and investigation.
Chair: Ken Robertson, Corruption Prevention Network
Ron McLeod AM, Commonwealth Ombudsman. Blowing the official whistle
Keiran Pehm, Deputy Commissioner, ICAC NSW

Session 4: Whistleblowing: the role of the media and NGOs
What happens when internal mechanisms don’t work?
Chair: Peter Rooke, Transparency International Australia
Quentin Dempster, broadcaster and author. Role of the media


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