The Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, announced he will introduce a bill in the Federal Parliament to amend the Public Interest Disclosure Act in late November.

The Public Interest Disclosure Amendment (Review) Bill 2022 will:

  • Enforce a positive duty to protect whistleblowers on principal officers and to provide ongoing training and education to public officials in their agency;
  • Strengthen protections for disclosures and introduce protections for witnesses, including expanding the definition of detriment that will attract remedies;
  • Enhance the oversight roles of the Ombudsman and Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security;
  • Facilitate the reporting and sharing of information related to public interest disclosures to ensure they can be properly addressed;
  • Improve the allocation and investigation processes for authorised officers and principal officers; and
  • Remove solely personal work-related conduct from the scope of disclosable conduct.

The Government will also consult widely on whether there is a need to establish a Whistleblower Protection Authority or Commissioner.

The announcement coincides with a release of a new report Protecting Australia’s Whistleblowers – The Federal Roadmap co-authored by Griffith University, the Human Rights Law Commission and Transparency International Australia.

According to The Guardian, the draft legislation was approved by cabinet on Monday 12 November and “paves the way for stronger whistleblower protections to be in place by the time the national anti-corruption commission (Nacc) is due to opens its doors in mid-2023.”

Labor committed before the election to update and “act on” the recommendations of the 2016 Moss review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act. This bill implements 21 of the 33 recommendations of the Moss review.

The new report calls for a raft of reforms, across a 12-point roadmap.

Your-Call-PID-roadmap

Source: Protecting Australia’s Whistleblowers – The Federal Roadmap, p 5

Lessons Learned from Private Sector Whistleblowing Reforms

Your Call’’s CEO, Lauren Witherdin, said that there are lessons from the 2019 private sector whistleblowing reforms that should be considered by organisations preparing for the impending PID reforms.

In the private sector, we saw the new whistleblower laws result in a significant increase in disclosure activity, both to company whistleblower hotlines, such as Your Call, as well as externally to regulators such as ASIC and APRA.  Organisations who prepared early were better equipped to comply in the required timeframe.

Now is a good time for organisations operating under the Commonwealth Public Interest Act to:

  1. Review your current Public Interest Disclosure management processes and procedures to ensure they are practical and effective.
  2. Consider whether your whistleblower program is adequately resourced.
  3. Consider how your organisation is storing and managing confidential information relating to Public Interest Disclosures and other culture and conduct related matters.

 

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