‘Big step’ for whistleblowers
Australia Takes a Step in the Right Direction
Whistleblowers stand to receive more protection when reporting wrongdoing under new laws passed in Parliament today.
The Public Interest Disclosure Bill, tabled by Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, gives public officials immunity from criminal, civil and administrative liability if they make a report to an authorised body.
It also makes it an offence for a person or organisation to retaliate against an official as a result of them making a public disclosure.
While advocates welcomed the landmark bill, they said whistleblowers were still at risk of having their concerns ignored by organisations.
‘It is absolutely essential that whistleblowers are given immunity from prosecution for breach of confidence,’’ said Whistleblowers Australia national president Cynthia Kardell. ‘‘This is a huge step … but the legislation is still failing because there are still ways that employers can stifle disclosure.’’
The law only applies to officials working in the Commonwealth public sector and federal agencies, not people in the private sector.
It will be overseen by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS).
Greens Senator Christine Milne amended the bill to allow people to disclose wrongdoing or regulatory failures relating to the environment immediately.
She said the bill was a significant step in protecting people reporting wrongdoing and called on protections to extend to the private sector.
“Currently, brave public servants who come forward to expose corruption or maladministration usually do so at great personal, emotional and financial cost,’’ Senator Milne said.
The bill is a response to a 2010 House of Representatives standing committee report into whistleblower protection.
It contains provisions to ensure Commonwealth agencies properly investigate and respond to public interest disclosures.
“For the government to exempt themselves from the standards, rights and obligations it is seeking to impose upon all other public officials is wrong,’’ Senator Milne said.
Posted on June 21, 2013, in activism, Crime, Government, Human rights and Liberties and tagged Attorney general, Christine Milne, Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Mark Dreyfus, Member of Parliament, Official, Whistleblower, Whistleblowers Australia. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.