Griffith research project team makes submission to whistleblower protection inquiry

Professor AJ Brown with Senator Nick Xenophon
Professor AJ Brown with Senator Nick Xenophon

Australia’s largest whistleblowing research project has given evidence to the first hearings of the Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profitsectors.

Whistling While They Work 2 project leader Professor A J Brown of Griffith University’s Centre for Governance & Public Policy told the Brisbane Inquiry, comparisons across the G20 countries showed Australia’s legal protections for corporate and not-for-profit whistleblowers is embarrassingly weak.

“However, Australian business and government face a vital choice on what to do about this,” he said.

“Will it be by introducing protections for employees who reveal wrongdoing in a piece-by-piece fashion in Commonwealth laws, starting with tax avoidance, then financial misdeeds, and so on?

“Or will it be a more strategic approach in which business is spared pain, with companies and employers operating under one overarching set of protections for those who blow the whistle on wrongdoing?”

Professor Brown and fellow WWTW2 research team, Associate Professor Kath Hall of ANU told the Inquiry, preliminary results supported a comprehensive approach — based on the breadth of wrongdoing types already identified in business whistleblowing policies.

Senator Nick Xenophon speaks to the media at the Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry in Brisbane
Senator Nick Xenophon speaks to the media at the Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry in Brisbane

The results are drawn from a survey of whistleblowing processes and procedures across 702 public sector, business and not-for-profit organisations from Australia and New Zealand, collected by the project between April and July 2016.

Protection to suit Australian standards

“We can go down the US road, and have whistleblower protections relating to 47 different types of corporate wrongdoing in 47 different laws, or we can support business with something higher quality and more streamlined,” Professor Brown said.

The WWTW2 preliminary research already influenced important reforms to federal whistleblowing laws in November, introduced by Senator Nick Xenophon — who also recommended the present inquiry and is a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee.

More research results will be released at next month’s National Integrity 2017 conference, in Brisbane, being held by Griffith University and Transparency International Australia.