With Senator Deb O'Neill, Senator Chris Ketter and Matt Keogh MP
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services has released its unanimous report on whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors.
Whistleblowers have helped deter and expose misconduct, fraud and corruption. Sadly, the reality is that under current laws, it is nearly impossible to protect them.
Mindful of the personal cost borne by many of those who have blown the whistle, we have recommended a replacement wage commensurate to the whistleblower's current salary as an advance of compensation. Whistleblowers should not have to weigh up sending their children to school against speaking out.
The Committee has also heard that the cultural practices of some organisations have become so oppressive that the only way to get people to blow the whistle is to incentivise them financially.
Consistent with comparable jurisdictions of the US, UK and Canada, the Committee has recommended the establishment of a reward system.
To help ensure unethical incentives are not introduced, the reward system will:
- have a limit, or a cap, on the reward being paid to a whistleblower;
- be reflective of the information disclosed; and
- be determined against a number of criteria.
The evidence to the Committee proved that current whistleblower protections have little practical effect, in both the public and private sectors.
It is undoubtedly clear that toxic cultural practices are preventing people from coming forward in the public interest. Whistleblowers and their families have suffered very serious reprisals for doing the right thing and speaking up.
We thank the whistleblowers who have bravely shared their story with us – both privately and publically.
The Committee has made a number of other recommendations to ensure that whistleblowers are protected from reprisals. These include:
- bringing together within a single Act private sector whistleblower protection legislation – but keeping separate public sector whistleblower protection legislation;
- examining options for ensuring ongoing harmony between the whistleblower protections in public and private sector Acts; and
- the establishment of a Whistleblower Protection Authority that can support whistleblowers and conduct investigations of reprisals.
Labor and Greens members of the Committee wanted to combine all whistleblower protection legislation – both private and public sector – into one single Act. We believe there is much to be gained from a single Act – simplicity; consistency; and reduced compliance burdens.
The Committee is confident that if its recommendations are adopted Australians who see something illegal or wrong happening will have adequate protection to enable them to blow the whistle in the public interest.
THURSDAY, 14 SEPTEMBER 2017