In calling for a principles-based Commonwealth whistleblower protection regime, Griffith University Integrity and Transparency experts have provided recommendations for crucial changes needed to reinforce the Public Interest Disclosure (PID) ACT.

Griffith School of Government & International Relations Professor A J Brown.

Griffith Public Policy and Law Professor AJ Brown said no employee should be left worse off for blowing the whistle.

“Current laws are largely dysfunctional and under-implemented because they contain inconsistencies which make protections difficult to enforce,” Professor Brown said.

“Detriment to whistleblowers from ‘reprisal’ continued to go unremedied in the public and private sectors, even in deserving cases.

“The definition of ‘reprisal’ in the PID Act fails to account for ‘collateral damage’, which includes a wide range of harms suffered by whistleblowers.

“Collateral damage occurring as a result of the whistleblowing process includes unmanaged stress, lost time, ostracism, impacted performance and alienation.”

Though legal protections were put in place to protect against reprisal, no known criminal prosecutions have been initiated under the PID Act, said Research Fellow Jane Olsen.

“This is because prosecution requires an almost impossible level of intent and evidence to conclude any harm suffered by whistleblowers constitutes ‘reprisal’,” Ms Olsen said.

“The primary purpose of the PID Act is to provide whistleblower safety, support and welfare and it’s imperative these obligations are not only retained but made clearer and more logical in the Act.

“Nationally, agencies should be liable for damages if they fail to comply with their obligation to take proactive steps to minimise risks to whistleblowers.

“Basic obligations need to be understood and appreciated by anyone in an agency, including all managers and potential whistleblowers, not simply those with technical administrative responsibilities.”

The submission stated managers and staff in workplaces should be educated to understand how to behave when public interest concerns were raised.

Examples of this included the provision of appropriate support to employees who spoke up and making sure employees were able to continue their careers.

“A simple failure to ‘stand up’ for employees who report, in complex workplace situations, can be enough to lead to impacts such as unjustified and unfair resignations or terminations, environments of conflict and mistrust, and these impacts take an irreparable toll on whistleblowers,” Professor Brown said.

“We need to create a safe culture for raising concerns, preventing any harm to whistleblowers and providing a legal remedy if any detriment should occur.”

10: Reduced Inequalities
UN Sustainable Development Goals 10: Reduced Inequalities

12: Responsible Consumption and Production
UN Sustainable Development Goals 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
UN Sustainable Development Goals 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions