Would cash lure out more government whistleblowers?

Most people are loath to become whistleblowers, and with good reason. The two-year-old Public Interest Disclosure Act is encouraging more public servants to come forward, but reprisals are still feared. Would a little cash help, too?

It’s a sad fact that whistleblowers almost always bear a high personal cost for exposing illegal and unethical behaviour because in doing so, they put people with responsibilities higher up the food chain in jeopardy.

From early childhood, reporting genuine wrongdoing becomes conflated with telling fibs to get others in trouble. The result is most people have it drilled into them to just keep their mouth shut and mind their own business, or be branded an untrustworthy tattle-tale.

Combined with the actual consequences that have befallen past whistleblowers, there is good reason to keep your head down. The number of public servants coming forward with information about shifty behaviour is on the rise, but the statistics also show fear of reprisals is still prevalent. “The external disclosure must not, on balance, be contrary to the public interest … and only disclose as much information as is reasonably necessary”

Would a little money sweeten the deal and encourage more whistleblowers to come forward? South Australian senator Nick Xenophon thinks it might.

FREE membership to The Mandarin

Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.

The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.

  • Kevin_T

    Quote: “From early childhood, reporting genuine wrongdoing becomes conflated with
    telling fibs to get others in trouble.”
    I had always thought the stigma was about being deemed to be a “dobber”, even going back to childhood. Maybe, the reporting of wrongdoing being conflated with lying in the way you suggest is a regional thing, because I have never encountered that aspect to it before (and equally the dobber stigma that I have seen associated with those actions is regional to other parts of Australia).
    I have never understood the stigma attached to genuine whistleblowing, as I see it as a very important tool against both corruption and dangerous practises.