Whistleblowers are key to fighting corruption

Professor A J Brown

Whistleblowers are an integral part of fighting corruption, according to Griffith University Professor AJ Brown.

Professor Brown said without whistleblowers there would never have been the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

Griffith’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy’s public integrity and anti-corruption program leader Professor Brown was a key member of the panel at The Future of Corruption — The Fitzgerald Report 30 Years On Q&A event at Queensland Conservatorium on July 10.

Whistleblowers have recently come under threat in the wake of raids by the Australian Federal Police on journalists’ homes and workplaces.

Professor Brown told the forum whistleblowers were an essential part in fighting corruption and the current pressure on the media to discourage the use of them was detrimental.

Professor AJ Brown on the Q&A panel.

“For the past 30 years (since the Fitzgerald Inquiry) we’ve been on the path to recognising the role of whistle blowers, recognising the importance of the freedom of the press, being very strong about those principals and yet, it’s very clear now that we are living in a world where those principals are very much under pressure,” Professor Brown said.

“It’s the raids and clear risk of the prosecution, not just against the whistleblower… but actually against the media themselves, which shows the learnings from the Fitzgerald era have not really taken hold.

“The whole Fitzgerald Inquiry only happened because of the media and only happened because people inside the system spoke to the media.”

Professor Brown said while the principles behind whistleblowing to bring corruption to light were being ‘eroded’, the Fitzgerald Inquiry in general had been an extremely positive step for Queensland’s democratic society.

“The key thing that was so distinctive about the Fitzgerald Inquiry… was that it was a total system overhaul,” he said.

“It wasn’t just a silver bullet solution.

“The actions bought the concept of true democracy back to Queensland.

“Wherever there is an organisation which involves a lot of power there will always be risk.

“We can never afford to say that will never happen again…but a lot of those reforms radically changed the institution for the better.”