Light at the End of the Tunnel for Whistleblowers

5 December 2018

Transparency International Australia welcomes urgently needed amendments to Australia’s corporate whistleblower protection laws, due for debate in the Senate today, and calls on all parties to bring on the debate and support their passage.

Transparency International Australia has worked with the community, with the Coalition Government and crossbench MPs on sound improvements to legislation to support whistleblowers. The proposed legislation will now allow corporate whistleblowers to go public, relatively simply, if a regulator fails to act within 90 days.

‘This is the long overdue first step towards ensuring whistleblowers receive the support and protection they deserve when they lift the lid on corruption and dodgy deals in the private sector’, said Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia.

‘The importance of this legislation cannot be ignored. It’s a wakeup call for companies, and it will help ensure regulators do their job.

‘For far too long whistleblowers in Australia have been left to hang out to dry, often at immense personal cost to their health, their wellbeing and their careers, for simply doing the right thing and exposing wrongdoing.

‘Without the brave actions of whistleblowers like Jeff Morris, we may never have had the Banking Royal Commission. Without the actions of James Shelton and Brian Hood, we may never have known of Australia’s biggest corruption scandal – the bribery of foreign officials by the Reserve Bank subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia – to win lucrative currency printing contracts.

‘James Shelton and Brian Hood’s long ordeal to seek justice in Australia’s biggest corruption scandal demonstrates the need for compensation.

‘There is more to be done, as recommended by last year’s Parliamentary Joint Committee.

‘These laws have to be shown to work, protection for public sector whistleblowers is lagging, and we need a whistleblower protection authority to support all public and private sector whistleblowers, and ensure these remedies are real.

‘The recent case of Rebecca Connor is another case in point.  The New South Wales Department of Planning sacked Ms Connor, a senior planning manager, allegedly for raising concerns about corruption linked to Hunter mine titles and approvals in 2017.’

‘The amendments to overhaul protection for corporate employees will help ensure Australian companies conduct their activities legally and with integrity, both in their Australian operations and abroad,’ said Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of Transparency International Australia.

‘The amendments will provide stronger legal protection in cases where a whistleblower contacts the media.

‘Now, companies face the world’s first ever requirement to not simply have a policy on paper, but spell out exactly how they plan to “support and protect” those who speak up, before anyone starts taking out reprisals.

‘Those who choose to be a whistleblower will never have an easy ride, but these new rules will provide much needed support for whistleblowers, and another legal driver for responsible business conduct and for corporate transparency and accountability.’