Whistleblowers need a ‘standalone Act’
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Whistleblowers need a ‘standalone Act’

Australian whistleblowers need a single piece of legislation to protect them, separate from the “narrow” provisions within the Corporations Act, says the Governance Institute.

In a submission to Treasury lodged yesterday, the Governance Institute called for a "one-stop-shop" act for corporate whistleblowers.

"The whistleblower provisions in the Corporations Act are very narrowly focused and require whistleblowers to have a detailed understanding of whether the misconduct they are reporting is covered by corporate law," said the submission.

Alternatively, the misconduct could relate to competition, tax, workplace health and safety, bribery or corruption or industrial relations – all of which are covered by different legislation and regulators, said the Governance Institute.

Disclosures within the corporate sector ought not to be confined to ASIC and the ATO, said Governance Institute chief executive Steve Burrell.

"We do not believe that a whistleblower should be required to have a nuanced knowledge of legislation to know which regulator or law enforcement agency they approach to qualify for protection," Mr Burrell said.

"It is a strong disincentive to making disclosures if employees or concerned members of the public feel that they require legal advice before making any such disclosure.

"A stand-alone act that covers disclosure of any sort of misconduct – not just financial misconduct – and that provides protection regardless of which regulator the whistleblower discloses to is what we need.

"Australia should follow the lead of the United States and United Kingdom where there are general provisions for allegations of misconduct made in good faith, and which do not attract retribution. This is a much better option than one which mandates the same provision in multiple pieces of legislation."

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