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Whistleblowers being left in the cold: report

Nearly a quarter of organisations have no support strategy in place for staff who blow the whistle on wrongdoing, according to an ASIC-backed industry report.


According to the latest report from the Whistling While They Work 2 (WWTW2) research project, 23 per cent of organizations offer no support services to whistleblowers.

Additionally, more than 80 per cent of organisations lacked any process for “providing compensation or restitution” to whistleblowers who suffered “detrimental outcomes” as a result of their actions.

“If we want whistleblowers to come forward, we’ve got to streamline the process,” Governance Institute of Australia chief executive Mr Steven Burrell said.

“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 or 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.”

The Governance Institute raised the same concerns regarding the provisions made for whistleblowers in the Corporations Act in February 2017, noting that many potential whistleblowers may feel a need to seek legal advice prior to making a disclosure.

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, the institute said at the time.

ASIC said it “welcomed and strongly endorsed” the new research, which it said “will lead to a strong information base to assist considerations of whistleblowing practices”.

“The release of the new results provides an important new picture of where the strengths and weaknesses lie in current whistleblowing processes,” ASIC commissioner John Price said.

“This demonstrates firstly, the value of the project and of participating in it, but also why it’s important that industry take a proactive approach to helping identify and adopt best practice, so that improvements in this area are well-informed and well-targeted on what’s needed.”

Last year, the regulator put its support behind the project, writing to more than 30,000 Australian companies to encourage them to participate.

We believe it’s important to have evidence-based research in this area. We’re a proud sponsor and participant in this project,” ASIC senior executive leader Warren Day told InvestorDaily in April 2016.

Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer released a consultation paper in January 2017 aimed at assisting the government to implement new whistleblower protections in the tax sector while reviewing existing ones.

“Whistleblowing plays a critical role in uncovering corporate and tax misconduct,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

The WWTW2 report was led by Griffith University’s Centre for Governance and Public Policy in conjunction with 23 other organisations such as ASIC and the Governance Institute of Australia.

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