This page considers whistleblowing in Australia.
It covers -
incidents are discussed in more detail here.
Australian legislation centres on whistleblowing by public
There is currently no national whistleblowing enactment
and no specific protection in the Australian Constitution.
Narrow and problematical protection for some whistleblowing
is provided in the -
Public Service Act 1999 (s16)
Act 2001 (Part 9.4AAA)
The Senate Finance & Public Administration Committee
released a report (PDF)
in 2002 on the 2001 Public Interest Disclosure Bill,
aimed at covering the federal public sector beyond provisions
found in the 1999 Public Service Act. Submissions
regarding that Bill are here.
The federal Corporate Law Economic Reform Program
(Audit Reform & Corporate Disclosure) Bill 2003,
unfortunately more restricted than comparable overseas
legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley in the US, would extend
protection under the corporations law for public interest
disclosures regarding business activities.
The proposal follows high-profile corporate collapses
(such as that of HIH Insurance and One.Tel) and the 'CLERP
9' issues paper Corporate Disclosure: Strengthening
the Financial Reporting Framework.
The ACCC notes that it
relies on whistle blowers to identify collusive conduct
which by its nature is secret and hard to detect. The
ACCC's recently issued Leniency Policy encourages whistle
blowers by offering complete immunity to those who involved
in the conduct and are first through the door.
State/territory legislation, essentially concerned with
government bodies, includes the -
Protection Act 1993 (SA) in South Australia | here
Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001 (Vic) in
Whistleblower Protection Act 1994 (Qld) in
Queensland | (PDF)
Public Interest Disclosure Act 1994 (ACT)
in the ACT | here
Protected Disclosures Act 1994 (NSW) in NSW
Official Corruption Commission Act 1988 (WA)
in Western Australia.
enactments that are specific to particular industries
or activities, such as environmental protection and childcare,
offer limited protection beyond obligations to report
offences such as suspected child molestation.
In the private sector there has been disagreement about
the utility of corporate and professional codes of practice
and ethics, highlighted in the 2001 Whistleblowing
by the NSW Professional Standards Council noted above
and in the 2004 study (PDF)
by Ernst & Young for the Australian Compliance Institute.
Standards Australia (SA)
released a standard (AS 8004-2003) on Whistleblowing
Protection Programs For Entities during 2003.
The standard is a useful start in the encouragement of
best practice within organisations and community acceptance
of whistleblowing in an environment where reporting is
sometimes seen as "dobbing" or "unAustralian".
However, like associated corporate governance standards
it is not mandatory and it does not provide effective
William de Maria's 2002 The Victorian Whistleblower
Protection Act - Patting the Paws of Corruption?
and Deadly Disclosures: Whistleblowing and the ethical
meltdown of Australia (Adelaide: Wakefield Press
1999) offer a bleak view of implementation of the Australian
legislation, supplemented by Stuart Dawson's 2000 paper
Whistleblowing: A Broad Definition & Some Issues
for Australia, Peter Grabowsky's cogent Controlling
Fraud, Waste & Abuse in the Public Sector (PDF)
and the 2006 Public Interest Disclosure Legislation
in Australia report
by the federal and state ombudsmen.
Accounts of Australian whistleblowers feature in Quentin
Dempsters's Whistleblowers (Sydney: ABC Books
1997), Deborah Locke's memoir Watching the Detectives
(Sydney: ABC 2003), Fred Brenchley's Allan Fels: A
Portrait of Power (Milton: Wiley 2003) and Thomas
Frame's Where Fate Calls: The HMAS Voyager Tragedy
(Sydney: Hodder & Stoughton 1992). Locke's revelations
led to the 1994 NSW Royal Commission (Wood
Royal Commission) into the state police force.
To Protect & Serve: The Untold Truth About The NSW
Police Service (Sydney: New Holland 2003) by Tim
Priest & Richard Basham is of interest for its account
of dealings with 'cash for comments' shockjock Alan Jones;
one reviewer acutely described it as a "how-to-guide
on getting maximum media exposure". The unlovely
Mr Jones is profiled in Chris Masters' Jonestown
(Sydney: Allen & Unwin 2006).