15 Feb 2017
Adam Langenberg, Political Reporter, The Advertiser
February 15, 2017 8:12pm
WHISTLEBLOWERS would be able to speak with journalists without fear of prosecution under changes being pushed by the state Opposition and crossbench MPs.
The State Government is now being challenged to adopt changes passed by the Upper House, which are aimed at unearthing malpractice in the public service.
The amendment, supported by all parties except Labor, allows disclosure to a journalist if a person has already made a complaint to the appropriate authority.
It is in line with a recommendation by Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander.
Liberal MP Andrew McLachlan said whistleblowers must be given the opportunity to speak to the media and be protected after they’d been failed by their superiors.
“The role of the media in our society is critical to ensure the Government and the bureaucracy is held to account,” he said.
“If we fail to provide disclosure to the media … we are sending a signal to the community that we favour secrecy over transparency, darkness over light, and are putting the interests of the executive over the interests of the whistleblower.”
The State Government has resisted a push to allow whistleblowers to speak to journalists if their concerns are not adequately investigated, saying that under the current Public Interest Disclosure Bill they would be able to approach MPs instead.
The changes were supported by the Greens, Family First, Dignity for Disability and the Nick Xenophon Team, but rejected by the Government.
Mr Lander told a parliamentary committee last year that he recommended allowing whistleblowers to contact journalists because “there had to be someone who was prepared to make this public when nobody else will”.
“(Attorney-General John Rau) says you would never need the media because MPs from both sides will bring this to the attention of parliament because they are one of the thresholds before you get to the media. But I’m not so sure about that,” he said then.
“I think that if the public knew that they could … go to the media, that would enhance confidence in the system.”
Mr Rau has repeatedly stressed the Public Interest Disclosure Bill would increase protection for whistleblowers.
Police Minister Peter Malinauskas said the Government was confident the Bill provided a “thorough regime for dealing with appropriate disclosures”.
The Opposition and most of the crossbench also passed amendments allowing whistleblowers to apply to the Equal Opportunity Commission for an injunction if they suspected they were at risk of victimisation, and putting the onus on government agencies to prevent them being victimised.