Australia’s leading whistleblowing law expert has welcomed the introduction by the Federal Government of its ‘long overdue’ whistleblower protection legislation, the Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2013.

Griffith University professor of public policy and law, A J Brown, said that the Bill’s introduction brought the Government one step closer to fulfilling its promise of the world’s ‘best practice’ whistleblower protection for federal public servants who speak up about wrongdoing.

“Griffith University is proud to have led the comprehensive Australian Research Council project, Whistling While They Work, which has informed the five years of deliberation over this vital accountability reform,” Professor Brown said.

The Whistling While They Work recommendations, first launched in 2008 by then Special Minister of State Senator John Faulkner, have already led to amended or new Public Interest Disclosure Acts in Queensland, NSW and the ACT.

The research also informed the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Bill 2012, introduced to the federal parliament by Independent MP Andrew Wilkie in October.

“By finally introducing its own Bill, the Government is showing its commitment to see meaningful reform achieved in this parliament,” Professor Brown said.

“The Government’s Bill can now be studied closely against Mr Wilkie’s bill, and other current best practice legislation around the nation and the world, to ensure we get a protection regime for public interest whistleblowers which can serve Australia for decades to come.”

The Whistling While They Work research revealed reporting by employees as the single most important way that wrongdoing within government is brought to light and dealt with, but that fewer than 2% of public sector whistleblowers received formal support and protection.

The findings of further research by Griffith University, published last year, revealed that while 80% of Australian employees would feel personally obliged to blow the whistle on wrongdoing within their organisations, only 49% felt their management would be serious about protecting them — a figure which was only 33% among federal public servants.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney-General (Mark Dreyfus QC), Mr Wilkie, and all political parties over the coming weeks, to see these historic commitments to best-practice legislation finally met,” Professor Brown said.

Professor Brown is Program Leader, Public Integrity and Anti-Corruption, in the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University.