The Turnbull government has quickly convened an advisory panel to make good on its commitment to strengthen protections for whistleblowers and create safer pathways for reporting wrongdoing across all sectors of the workforce.
Legislation is expected by December as a result of a deal the government struck with South Australian senator Nick Xenophon, who supported the bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission on the proviso that it contained strong protections for whistleblowers and that they later be extended to other sectors.
The government also pledged to bring on a parliamentary vote by the end of June 2018 and to support its own legislation. Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer has now announced the members of an advisory panel that will “review and comment” on the draft bill, along with short bios of each:
- Professor A J Brown: Professor Brown is a professor of public policy and law, and program leader in public integrity and anti-corruption at the Centre for Governance & Public Policy, Griffith University. He is a current member of the board of Transparency International Australia. Professor Brown has undertaken significant research in respect of whistleblowing, including a comparison of offshore and Australian law and practices to support whistleblowing. He was previously a senior investigator for the Commonwealth Ombudsman and an associate to Justice Tony Fitzgerald AC QC.
- Dr David A Chaikin: Dr Chaikin is an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Business School. He was a practising lawyer specialising in multi‑jurisdictional investigations, transnational commercial and criminal litigation, and offshore corporate and banking law. He has held senior government roles and worked as a consultant to the United Nations, the OECD-based Financial Action Task Force, the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering and the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
- Mr Michael Croker: Mr Croker is the Head of Tax at Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ). He leads CAANZ’s taxation policy area and participates regularly in federal government consultations involving taxation and the Treasury. He was instrumental in the development of CAANZ’s CA Program Tax Module. Prior to joining CAANZ, Mr Croker was responsible for the tax law syllabus within PwC Australia and has lectured at the University of Sydney in its postgraduate tax program.
- Mr John Nguyen: Mr Nguyen is a partner at Deloitte Australia. He is a governance expert and also specialises in risk management, compliance, finance transformation and large scale change projects. He has lead complex engagements in the financial services and government sectors in Australia, New York, London and Singapore.
“The Panel will provide advice and assistance to the Government on the design of the legal framework to achieve these goals, informed by the public consultation process commenced by the Government in December 2016 and the PJC’s Inquiry,” O’Dwyer said.
The biggest changes will come in the private sector but it is likely that any changes will also make it easier for non-profit and public sector employees to make disclosures without fear of reprisal.
A new report from the Victorian anti-corruption watchdog states that more than a third of Victorian public servants fear that reporting corruption would have negative personal repercussions, and one quarter worry doing so could lead to termination.