Integrity and accountability rely on the ability of citizens to speak up when they suspect or witness wrongdoing – especially the officials and employees who actually know what’s going on within institutions.
Together with freedom of the media to report what society needs to know, public interest whistleblowing remains the most important trigger, in practice, for the integrity mechanisms that keep institutions healthy, thriving and ethical.
Aspects of Australia’s private sector whistleblower protections already lead the world. However, public sector protections lag behind. Across both sectors, loopholes, inconsistencies and lack of enforcement undermine effectiveness, often leaving them as paper tigers.
As government secrecy legislation grows, Australia’s strong traditions of independent journalism have been compromised. Indeed the rights of all citizens to receive and share official information in the public interest have been steadily disappearing.
Overhaul of whistleblower protection laws, internal and external to government, has been promised from all sides of politics. Fulfilling these promises is central to effective regimes for public interest disclosure and media freedom.