20.03.2017

PM&C deputy: Commonwealth whistleblower system works just fine


The Commonwealth’s relatively new Public Interest Disclosure scheme is working quite well, at least in the experience of Steven Kennedy, a deputy secretary at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“I have had some experiences where I have seen matters being disclosed … and in my own experience, [they] have been handled well and the whistleblower aspects of that … in my view, inside the federal public service, were handled well,” Kennedy told the first biennial National Integrity conference last week.

After a speech detailing some work on measuring public trust in government, Kennedy had been asked a question about the whistleblower scheme by Peter Bennett, who successfully challenged strict confidentiality rules that applied in the federal public sector more than a decade ago. The famous series of cases in the courts and the Human Rights Commission led some senior officials to believe the sky would fall in, and had major consequences for freedom of speech in the public service.

Bennett, who was a union leader in the former Customs service, said he was an “ex-whistleblower, survivor [who] came out the other side OK — sort of” and had seen some “really good CEOs” in the public sector but also some “absolutely atrocious ones” as well as “bad decisions made that have hurt a lot of people” over a 40-year career.

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