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Draft bill to increase whistleblower protections

Shine Lawyers has welcomed the Federal Government’s proposed new range of protections for Australian corporate whistleblowers.

Shine Lawyers Special Counsel Peter Coggins said the country was “long overdue” for compulsory requirements on corporates, banks and insurers to have formal whistleblowing regimes in place and for penalties to apply where this has not happened.

Mr Coggins said it was crucial that protections were made available to whistleblowers, specifically those formerly associated with the corporation they are lifting the lid on (such as those who have been dismissed or made redundant).

“Harsh but appropriate penalties now apply for disclosing a whistleblower’s identity. The absence of such protections and penalties has probably been a major factor in the limited number of corporate whistleblowers coming forward in Australia. Interestingly though, many Australians have been reported coming forward in the United States, availing themselves of the longstanding protections available to whistleblowers there,” Mr Coggins said.

“It is somewhat disappointing that the proposed legislation hasn’t been modelled entirely on a “world-best” standard, which would have included a scheme whereby a whistleblower rightly receives compensation or a bounty from the fine or damages ultimately imposed by a regulator for taking the very important step of coming forward,” he said.

Mr Coggins says where such a reward scheme applies, such as in the United States, governments have been able to embark on significant and successful prosecutions. The whistleblowers who instigated the action were appropriately compensated from the fines imposed.

“Australia’s corporate watchdog, ASIC, might have been able to widen its sphere of influence had a compensation regime been established and rightly encouraged more whistleblowers to come forward in cases or serious corporate misconduct,” he said.

“Over its history, Shine Lawyers has received multiple approaches from corporate whistleblowers who sadly, without appropriate protections regarding their identity nor protection and compensation regimes, are not prepared to take their allegations forward. The proposed legislation, while not perfect, should see a commensurate rise in corporate whistleblowers coming forward along with the corporate sector moving to formalise their compulsory whistleblower protections.”

Contact our team of experts for advice or if you want to know more about your rights in the workplace.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: October 25, 2017.

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