Recommendations to strengthen whistleblower protections welcomed, but more work still to be done

14 September 2017
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has today welcomed a Parliamentary inquiry’s recommendations for better protections to Australian whistleblowers who expose misconduct, tax evasion, bribery and corruption.

Maurice Blackburn Employment Law Principal Josh Bornstein said the recommendations outlined in the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Federal and Financial Services’ Whistleblower Protections report were “a very good start” in the path to providing effective protections for whistleblowers in the private sector, and improved standards of corporate governance.

“For too long whistleblowers have been punished rather than rewarded for their contribution to improving corporate governance in Australia. This report recommends that whistleblowers receive a reward for their information in certain circumstances. That recommendation is both welcome and well overdue,” Mr Bornstein said.

“But we note that until the government responds to the report, and new legislation is introduced, whistleblowers in the private sector will continue to be vulnerable to victimisation. There is also a risk that the big business lobby swings into action to try to persuade the federal government to water down genuine legislative protections,” he said.

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

In written and verbal submissions to the joint committee, Maurice Blackburn called for:

  • widening the categories of crime and misdemeanours for inclusion
  • giving whistleblowers choices of disclosure forms (eg. employer, regulator), and a hierarchy for disclosures so there is consistency
  • putting time limits on the turnaround for those disclosures to ensure certainty
  • providing financial support to overcome the significant threat of career loss and consequential financial collapse
  • redefining external disclosures to include lawyers and the media, and
  • ensuring large employers have a best practice regime for managing the risk of corruption and supporting whistleblowers.

Mr Bornstein said he was pleased that the firm’s submissions had largely been adopted in the joint committee’s recommendations.

“We look forward to continued input into the development of stronger whistleblower laws and protections, and call on the Federal Government to at last take definitive action in ensuring a fair system is in place to protect private sector whistleblowers in Australia.”

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