Further strengthening of protections for Australia’s public sector whistleblowers could be a step closer, with the Federal Government considering whether to establish an independent authority to oversee reforms.
In June, the Federal Parliament passed priority amendments to the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
These ensured immediate improvements to the public sector whistleblower scheme were in place in time for the start of the National Anti-Corruption Commission.
So far, 21 of the 33 recommendations from the 2016 Review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 by Philip Moss (the Moss Review) have been implemented.
Now the Government has released a consultation paper on a second stage of reforms to further improve the public sector whistleblowing framework.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the reforms would address the underlying complexity of the scheme as well as what steps could be taken to provide effective and accessible protections to public sector whistleblowers.
“We are consulting on whether there is a need to establish a whistleblower protection authority or commissioner, the remaining recommendations from the Moss Review, as well as recommendations from other relevant reports and reviews,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“The Government will closely examine the responses to these consultations to determine what reforms are required to ensure Australia has an effective and accessible framework.”
The consultation paper is available on the Attorney-General’s Department Consultation Hub and submissions will be accepted until 11:59 pm on 22 December 2023.
The consultation comes in the form of a six-part survey and asks about the people and/or organisations making the submissions.
It seeks their views on disclosures within government; pathways to make a disclosure outside of government; protections and remedies under the Public Interest Disclosure Act; and oversight and integrity agencies, including the potential of a whistleblower protection authority or commissioner.
Views will also be sought on clarity of the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
“The Australian Government invites submissions on a consultation paper as part of the second stage of public sector whistleblowing reform …” the paper’s overview states.
“The second stage of reforms is an opportunity to improve the accessibility and effectiveness of the PID Act, and to consider whether additional supports for whistleblowers are needed.
“This includes consideration of outstanding recommendations from the Moss Review, recent parliamentary reports, external reviews and reports from stakeholders, and significant changes to the integrity landscape since the PID Act was introduced, including the establishment of the NACC.
“This consultation is an opportunity to shape further reforms to the public sector whistleblowing scheme established by the PID Act.
“In particular, we are seeking feedback on the issues identified in the consultation paper.
“We are interested in your views on what reforms are required to the PID Act and related measures to ensure the public sector whistleblowing framework remains fit for purpose and accessible for public officials to report wrongdoing.
“We welcome feedback from all interested stakeholders, including individuals, non-government organisations, government agencies, and academia.”