Federal efforts to strengthen whistleblower protections welcome, but a bounty scheme remains critical

23 June 2017
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have today welcomed the Federal Government’s acknowledgement that protections for corporate and tax whistleblowers are inadequate and that greater access to compensation is required, with proposed law reforms a good start in seeking fairer protections for all Australian whistleblowers.

Maurice Blackburn Employment Law Principal Josh Bornstein said the Federal Government’s active consideration of a reward or bounty scheme for whistleblowers, as outlined today in a speech from Revenue and Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer, was also welcome, with such schemes critical in enabling whistleblowers to come forward.

“For too long whistleblowers have been punished rather than rewarded for their contribution to clean up corporate misconduct in Australia,” Mr Bornstein said.

“That’s why a bounty or reward-based scheme for whistleblowers is critical, we can no longer accept lax and poor standards of corporate governance in this country - syphoning off millions of dollars of company funds is a lot different to stealing a lamington from the fridge.

“The only effective way to truly overcome corporate misconduct is to offer proportionate incentives and whistleblower protections, to make sure that their disclosure is dealt with in a timely and effective manner and to provide adequate financial compensation.

“We also know that bounty schemes work – in the United States such schemes have been in place since 2013 and have increased disclosures and prosecutions from whistleblowers, and we would urge the Federal Government to also act in implementing a bounty scheme in Australia as a priority.

“The Federal Government’s recognition today that greater protections are needed to bring protections for corporate and tax whistleblowers in line with those offered to the public sector is a good start, and we welcome the Government’s commitment to act on this with the upcoming introduction of draft legislation.

“Such measures must also ensure proper protections are in place for disclosures made to lawyers and to journalists, as both play a critical role in assisting whistleblowers to expose corporate misconduct and wrongdoing.

“We look forward to continuing to have input into the development of stronger whistleblower laws and protections through the draft legislation and Joint Committee processes – this is an important opportunity for the Federal Government to at last take definitive action in ensuring a fair system is in place to protect whistleblowers in Australia,” he said.

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