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August 14, 2019

Australian parliamentary committee calls for stronger whistleblower protections

In Canberra, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services has released a unanimous report on whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors. In a joint statement led by Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill, the committee noted that: “Whistleblowers have helped deter and expose misconduct, fraud and corruption. Sadly the reality is that under current laws, it is nearly impossible to protect them.

“…we have recommended a replacement wage commensurate to the whistleblower’s current salary as an advance of compensation… The committee has also heard that the cultural practices of some organisations have become so oppressive that the only way to get people to blow the whistle is to incentivise them financially.”

The committee is recommending the establishment of a reward system along the lines of those currently in place in the US, UK and Canada. Noting that ‘toxic cultural practices’ are preventing people from coming forward in the public interest, among the committee’s recommendations is the establishment of a Whistleblower Protection Authority ‘that can support whistleblowers and conduct investigations of reprisals’.

Speaking to Australian Financial Review, Senator O’Neill focused on the investigation into audit in Australia and urged current and former participants in the audit industry to come forward to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, which is now running an inquiry into the regulation of auditing in the country.

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