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Australian Company Directors Seek Better Whistleblower Protections

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) has called for significantly stronger and broader whistleblower protections.

The Australian Parliament is currently conducting an inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public, and not-for-profit sectors. The inquiry is due to report by June 30, 2017. The Government is also consulting upon protections for tax and corporate sector whistleblowers.

In its submission to the inquiry, the AICD recommended that the Government expand the number and type of people protected under current legislation, broaden the definition of "disclosable conduct," and extend protections to anonymous whistleblowers. It also said that there should be increased penalties for corporations that victimize or harm whistleblowers.

According to AICD Chairman Elizabeth Proust, the current regime places too much burden on the whistleblower and fails to encourage best practice governance frameworks.

She said: "Presently, only current employees who are disclosing certain offences are covered. If we want a strong whistleblowing framework, we cannot and should not expect whistleblowers to be experts on the Corporations Act. There is also little reason why former employees or contractors shouldn't be protected if they report wrongdoing."

"Company directors want to know if there is corporate wrongdoing happening within the organizations they govern, and a robust whistleblowing regime that encourages reporting can help make that happen. Australia needs a whistleblowing regime that will help improve governance practices, encourage effective internal reporting frameworks, and make sure that someone who blows the whistle gets the protection and support they deserve," Proust added.