Whistleblower Protection : Government Response

I have been reading the Government Response to to Whistleblower Protection. It makes interesting reading. The Government has agreed to introduce a Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Bill this year.

The Government has agreed to many of the recommendations and they do indeed provide a starting point for the development of the PID Bill.

Pleasingly, the Government has agreed to many of the recommendations associated with the protection of the people we currently label 'whistleblowers'. It is, of course, understandable that some of the recommendations have been agreed to in principle at this point.

What I want to do in this post is draw attention to one recommendation that has not been agreed to.

Recommendation 13

The Committee recommends that the Public Interest Disclosure Bill define the right to make a disclosure as a workplace right and enable any matter of adverse treatment in the workplace to be referred to the Commonwealth Workplace Ombudsman for resolution as a workplace relations issue.

The Government does not agree with this recommendation, but has indicated it will consider options to protect persons who make disclosures under the PID. Professionally, I believe it is important to keep an open mind on this decision.

I believe their needs to be open and public consultation (using social media and other means), with public servants and the community to design this option. Why? Because it is important to develop an option that gives public servants the trust and confidence to make disclosures the first place.

The option developed needs to be designed with a view to ensuring that the processes and services associated with whistleblowing cannot be subverted or exploited. This sort of conduct lies at the worse end of the scale and we should certainly develop an option with that scenario in mind. Sadly, the posts Silence is Consent and ATO accused of systemic abuse of power - An abusive sub-culture? illustrate that scenario.

So what should an entity designed to bring 'whistleblowing' into the 21st century look like? In my view it should be configured:

  • as service for government, public servants and, ultimately, the community;

  • around the concept that disclosures are 'normal'. That is, a key component of ensuring excellence, continuous improvement, integrity in public service and cultural reform;

  • with a view to providing an early intervention service. That is, enabling mid level disclosures to be made before they escalate to the point where the truth becomes difficult to ascertain;

  • to ensure that abusive sub-cultures and practices are expunged from the Australian Public Service;

  • as a web 2.0 enabled service to enhance open government. This is also a means of ensuring efficient service;

  • as a public servant centric service. So that we do not lose sight of people;


  • in a way that allows it to sit to one side of APS line agencies; and,

  • with a view to open engagement, communication and education.

A critical component of any option would be the articulation of the expectations held in terms of the nature of disclosures. Broadly speaking these need to be framed with a view to maximising disclosures while ensuring that matters of a purely interpersonal nature do not overload the service.

A key message to convey would be that the disclosures will be analysed and used top prepare reports for the betterment of workplaces and the public service as a whole. Another key message would be that reports will be published for all to see. This is consistent with the move toward open government and will place ongoing pressure on agencies to deal with undesirable practices, cultural attributes and behaviours.

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Tags: abuse, ago, aps, gov2, transparency, whistleblowing

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