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The government has released draft legislation on whistleblower protections, with reforms including a new protection regime for those who expose tax misconduct.
Following the recently formed expert advisory panel, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer, today released the Treasury Laws Amendment (Whistleblowers) Bill 2017.
The draft legislation, released for public consultation, will include reforms that create a single whistleblower protection regime in the Corporations Act, to cover the corporate, financial and credit sectors, and create a new whistleblower protection regime in the taxation law, to protect those who expose tax misconduct.
Reforms to the Corporations Act include: expanding the protections to a broader class of people; expanding the types of disclosures that will be protected under the framework; and allowing disclosures to parliamentarians and the media in certain circumstances, if preconditions are satisfied.
Other reforms include imposing new stringent obligations to maintain the confidentiality of a whistleblower’s identity; and making it significantly easier for a whistleblower to bring a claim for compensation where he or she has been victimised.
A new civil penalty offence will be created so that law enforcement agencies will be able to take action against companies where the civil standard of proof can be met; and all large companies will be required to have a whistleblower policy in place, with penalties for failing to do so.
“The draft legislation delivers on our commitments under the Open Government National Action Plan, and as announced in the 2016 budget,” said Ms O’Dwyer.
“These reforms are a significant milestone for whistleblowers – they can now come forward with confidence that they will be protected under a comprehensive and robust legal framework, knowing that they will have access to redress if they are victimised as a result of blowing the whistle.”
The expert advisory panel will assess the draft legislation against the recently released report of the parliamentary joint committee on corporations and financial services into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors (PJC Report), and will provide advice to government on how the draft legislation measures up against the PJC Report’s recommendations.
The government will consider the expert panel’s advice and the feedback received from the consultation before finalising the legislation for introduction to Parliament in the last sitting week of the year.