Senate told to wait on whistleblowing

The Governance Institute has urged the Senate Inquiry into ‘Scrutiny of Financial Advice' not to make any recommendations on whistleblowing systems until results from a substantial whistleblowing research project are released.

The comments came in the wake of the preliminary results released by Griffith University and partners from the ‘Whistling While They Work 2' study, which gathered a snapshot of whistleblowing processes and procedures across 702 public sector, business, and not-for-profit organisations from Australia and New Zealand.

The study identified key gaps including the fact that 23 per cent of organisations, and up to 36 per cent of not-for-profit organisations reported having no system for recording and tracking wrongdoing concerns.

It also found 23 per cent of organisations and 34 per cent of not-for-profit organisations had no strategy, program, or process in place to protect staff who flagged concerns, while 46 per cent of businesses and 32 per cent of non-profit organisations provided access to a management-designated support person inside the organisation in response to staff who raised concerns.

Governance Institute chief executive, Steven Burrell, said waiting for comprehensive results would allow the Senate to make recommendations based on solid evidence rather than hearsay.

"The results also reinforce the problem that the whistleblower provisions in the Corporations Act are very narrowly focused and require whistleblowers to have a detailed understanding of whether the misconduct they are reporting is covered by corporate law, when it could relate to competition, tax, workplace health and safety, bribery or corruption or industrial relations, all of which are covered by different legislation and regulators," Burrell said.

"A stand-alone Act that covers disclosure of any sort of misconduct — not just financial misconduct — and that provides protection regardless of which regulator the whistleblower discloses to is what we need and what we will recommend to the Senate inquiry once it reconvenes."

Australia should follow the US and UK, which had mechanisms for allegations of misconduct made in good faith to ensure the whistleblower did not face retribution.

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