30 November 2022
Whistleblowing amendments a welcome step towards comprehensive reform
Transparency International Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and Griffith University’s Centre for Governance & Public Policy today welcomed the release of initial amendments to Australia’s federal public sector whistleblowing law, but called for a more comprehensive approach to whistleblower protection in 2023.
On Wednesday, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC MP introduced technical amendments to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 into the House of Representatives, following an independent review by Philip Moss AM in 2016.
The amendments come a week after the three groups published Protecting Australia’s Whistleblowers: The Federal Roadmap, outlining 21 actions across 12 key reform areas for Australia to return to global best practice across the public and private sectors.
The new PID Act amendments address one in full, and four in part of those 21 actions.
The Attorney-General has indicated further whistleblowing reform will be considered in 2023.
Kieran Pender, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, report co-author said:
“Whistleblowers make Australia a better place, they bring integrity and transparency to our democracy. The amendments to reform the PID Act are an important first step to better protect and empower Australian whistleblowers. But they are just that – a first step. These technical changes make administrative improvements but do not deal with fundamental issues.
“Much work remains – including establishing a whistleblower protection authority, creating a consistent, standalone law for private sector whistleblowers, and bringing protections into line with international best-practice. Whistleblowers must be protected, not punished.”
Report co-author A J Brown, Professor of Public Policy and Law, Griffith University and Board Member, Transparency International Australia, said:
“Australia once led the world in enacting innovative laws to protect whistleblowers. Now we have fallen behind. Complex laws, full of loopholes and lacking practical support, are not fulfilling their purpose of protecting those who speak up.
“While these initial reforms begin the task of fixing one part of our cumbersome whistleblower protection patchwork, we look forward to working with the Attorney-General and Parliament to bring the Commonwealth’s entire whistleblowing framework up to standard in coming months.”
Clancy Moore, Chief Executive Officer at Transparency International Australia, said:
“The brave people that blow the whistle are the single most important trigger – and often the first – for bringing corruption out of the shadows and into the light. Too often, these people face retribution, legal cases and enormous personal damage. So we commend the government’s initial changes to strengthen whistleblower protections.”
Read Protecting Australia’s Whistleblowers: The Federal Roadmap here.