Slomo: You Forgot About Whistleblowers

In his mad scrambling response to Labor’s call for a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services, Treasurer Scott Morrison has ignored ASIC’s own calls to improve Australia’s corporate whistleblower laws.

CHRIS BOWEN MP

SHADOW TREASURER

MEMBER FOR MCMAHON

 

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR ISAACS

SENATOR CHRIS KETTER

CHAIR, SENATE ECONOMICS REFERENCES COMMITTEE

SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND

 

SLOMO: YOU FORGOT ABOUT WHISTLEBLOWERS

 

In his mad scrambling response to Labor’s call for a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services, Treasurer Scott Morrison has ignored ASIC’s own calls to improve Australia’s corporate whistleblower laws.

 

ASIC has publicly called on the Government to review the scope and circumstances that qualify for protections, a plea that has been ignored by four ministers with responsibility for the regulator (Sinodinos, Cormann, Frydenberg, and O’Dwyer).

 

But for all the breathless repetition about our ‘tough cop’, there was nothing in yesterday’s announcement that will make life any easier for whistleblowers.

 

Experts consider Australia public sector whistleblower protections, which were introduced under the last Labor government, world class.

 

But our corporate whistleblower protections lag behind others in the OECD, including the US and UK.

 

The inquiry into the performance of ASIC was triggered by a whistleblower, from within Commonwealth Bank. The Greens motion calling for a Royal Commission in the senate last June was triggered by a whistleblower coming forward with allegations about financial services firm IOOF. The CommInsure scandal in February was triggered by a whistleblower, also from within Commonwealth Bank.

 

In his struggle to avoid a Royal Commission at all costs, Scott Morrison has ignored one of the underlying and ongoing problems for the banking and financial services sector.

 

A Royal Commission could examine the need for further reforms across the banking and financial services sector.

 

Earlier today the Australian Bankers Association announced their members will consider improving protections for whistleblowers. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen noted that while Labor welcomes a policy change, it has obviously been forced by Labor’s call for a Royal Commission, and it won't go far enough to protect whistleblowers across the financial services sector.

 

What we need is changes to the legislation to protect people who work for corporate Australia, not just the banks.

 

Today, the Senate Economics Committee, chaired by Senator Chris Ketter, is releasing a discussion paper to improve protections for whistleblowers in the private sector. This is in addition to our policy commitment expand whistleblower protections announced last year. Submissions can be made to the Senate Economics Committee.

 

ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION

 

1. Bringing protections for private sector whistleblowers in line with those available in the public sector;

2. Protecting whistleblowers from victimisation and dismissal;

3. Improving internal disclosures;

4. Considering rewards or other incentives;

5. Introducing a public whistleblower advocate;

6. Expanding definition of whistleblower, and scope of protections;

7. Change Corporations Act to allow anonymous disclosures;

8. Consider requirement to act in 'good faith';

9. Expand disclosures allowed (to press, politicians, unions);

10. Consider any obligation to inform whistleblower of progress of investigation.

 

THURSDAY, 21 APRIL 2016