Response to Whilstleblowing Law Consultation - Free Speech Union of Australia

Response to Whilstleblowing Law Consultation

Sunday Dec 24 2023 at 11:00 AM

The Free Speech Union of Australia has made a submission to the Australian Parliament in response to a consultation on revising whistleblowing laws. The FSU has responded to this consultation both as an organisation with a general interest in Free Speech and as a Union with members who are directly impacted by the outcome.

Whistleblower protections are important to individuals, organisations and society as a whole. It protects those people who bring attention to wrongdoing or practices that an organisation wishes to keep hidden but deserve correction or scrutiny.

This is particularly important in organisations that are there to serve the public by implementing the decisions that come out of our democratic institutions. An extra level of transparency and accountability for actions and practices should be expected given the impact that these organisations have. It is vitally important that whistleblowing is encouraged as the default rather than treated as an anomaly.

The whole of society benefits when organisations, particularly those in public administration, protect whistleblowers as it encourages a culture where people feel free to speak up against bad behaviour more generally.

To improve the proposed legislation, we made the following observations (amongst others):

  1. Unprotected disclosures should be the exception, not the rule: the disclosures that are not protected under a whistleblower regime should only be limited to those that could cause tangible harm to people, property, or the broader national interests of Australia.
  2. Greater transparency means less need for whistleblowing: many of the recent cases involve revealing information about policy decisions that should have been made public without the need for whistleblowers. The fact that people had to make this information public should be indicative of a lack of transparency in Government which is as much of a concern as the particulars of the disclosures.
  3. The Minster should decide: The process for making disclosures for most departments should be through the Commonwealth Ombudsman, who investigates, makes a report and advises the relevant Minister who makes the ultimate decision.

To see more, please see our full submission below:

Please download here: [Full response (PDF)]