Protecting whistleblowers gains momentum

The federal government has committed to extending to the private sector whistleblower protections in the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act.

It will also support a parliamentary inquiry into whistleblower laws, set up an ‘expert advisory panel’ to develop draft legislation to act on the inquiry’s report and introduce legislation into parliament by December.

The Senate referred an inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for­ profit (NFP) sectors to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Corporations and Financial Services for reporting by 30 June.  Submissions are due by 10 February.

The terms of reference are:

  • The development and implementation in the corporate, public and NFP sectors of whistleblower protections, taking into account the substance and detail contained in the Registered Organisation Commission (ROC) legislation passed by parliament in November
  • The types of wrongdoing to which a comprehensive whistleblower-protection regime for the corporate, public and NFP should apply
  • The most effective ways of integrating whistleblower-protection requirements for the corporate, public and NFP sectors into Commonwealth law
  • Compensation arrangements in whistleblower legislation across different jurisdictions, including the bounty systems used in the United States of America
  • Measures needed to ensure effective access to justice, including legal services, for persons who make or may make disclosures and require access to protection as whistleblowers
  • The definition of detrimental action and reprisal, and the interaction between, and, if necessary, separation of criminal and civil liability
  • The obligations on corporate, NFP and public-sector organisations to prepare, publish and apply procedures to support and protect persons who make or may make disclosures, and their liability if they fail to do so or fail to ensure that the procedures are followed
  • The obligations on independent regulatory and law-enforcement agencies to ensure the proper protection of whistleblowers and investigation of whistleblower disclosures
  • The circumstances in which public interest disclosures to third parties and the media should attract protection
  • Any other matters relating to the enhancement of protections and the type and availability of remedies for whistleblowers in the corporate, not-for-profit and public sectors, and
  • Any related matters.

Other commitments include that the government will:

  • Set up an ‘expert advisory panel’ to develop draft legislation to act on the report
  • Introduce legislation into parliament by December with the support of, at a minimum, the standards now set in the Act, and
  • Commit to supporting enhancements to whistleblower protections and commit to a parliamentary vote on the legislation no later than 30 June 2018.

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