Are you managing whistleblowers in Queensland? A new regime may be ahead.
A recent review report (read the whole report here) by retired Supreme Court Judge Alan Wilson KC has made 107 recommendations regarding the current Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Act, including raising the threshold for reporting bad behaviour.
There’s no doubting that the role of whistleblowers is crucial in ensuring transparency, accountability, and the health of public institutions. But is the current system for receiving and managing human sources outdated? Does the current system encourage trivial reporting and the use of “weaponising?” I’m not a fan of that term, but the reality is reporting systems can be used in this way.
Is the current threshold “clogging up” the system?
Several reports and reviews underscored the diminishing emphasis on whistleblowing and the dire need for renewal within Queensland’s integrity framework. These include Professor Coaldrake’s culture and accountability review, the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee’s Logan City Council Report, the Fitzgerald/Wilson Inquiry into the Crime and Corruption Commission, and Judge Richards’ report on the Queensland Police Service’s response to domestic and family violence.
Throughout the review process, it became evident that many dedicated public servants were striving to leverage existing legislation to expose wrongdoing and protect whistleblowers. However, their efforts were hindered by legal ambiguities and technical complexities.
Not to mention the time taken to assess disclosures and the impact this has on all parties.
To address these challenges, the Wilson review proposes a comprehensive overhaul of the existing legislation, introducing a new Act with clarified objectives and user-friendly language. In summary, Judge Wilson recommends:
- expanding the definition of public sector entities, encompassing government-owned corporations, local government corporations, subsidiaries of entities like Queensland Rail, and even companies beneficially owned by the state. Additionally, the class of individuals eligible for whistleblower protection would be extended to include not only public officers but also anyone performing government-related functions, such as contractors, trainees, and certain volunteers.
- redefining the scope of misconduct covered under the Act, focusing on conduct that could seriously harm the public sector or public interest, including corrupt conduct, serious maladministration, misuse of public resources, environmental threats, and risks to public health and safety.
- establishing a whistleblower support unit within the Office of the Queensland Ombudsman, increasing protections against adverse consequences, shifting the burden of proof in cases of alleged reprisals and enabling more efficient dispute resolution
- clearer guidelines for agencies, including mandatory assessment of disclosed information, defined timeframes for assessments, and provisions for providing written reasons for decisions.
- Proposal for the Ombudsman to be the primary oversight agency, tasked with active auditing of compliance, specialised training for agencies, and trend monitoring in uncovering wrongdoing.
Are you responsible for managing whistleblowers? How do you manage human sources of information in your organisation?
At the Professional Investigators College of Australasia (PICA) we have the best team of whistleblower, human source, PID and informant management experts in the country, including psychologists and practitioners with decades of experience.
Get in touch with us to find out how we can help build your capability! Contact us here: https://pica.edu.au/contact-us/