Public Interest Disclosure Bill
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (16:01): I rise in support of this bill, which is the same as the bill which was presented to parliament last year before the election. The bill reforms the Whistleblowers Protection Act and allows people to make disclosures in the public interest without fear of reprisal by providing immunity for those who make disclosures in line with the act, and also provides protections against victimisation for making a disclosure.
Disclosures can be made to a responsible officer who has an obligation to advise the person making the disclosure, whether the matter will be investigated or not. If not, reasons why not must be provided. If action is taken with regard to the disclosure, the responsible officer must make efforts to keep the person making the disclosure updated on the action or outcome of the action taken. Importantly, the bill outlines that a person who has made a disclosure in line with the bill can then approach a journalist or a member of parliament if they have not been notified within 30 days of disclosure, or if they have not received an update on action being taken within 120 days.
Each government agency and council will have a disclosure policy which would outline who the responsible officer is, how disclosures can be made, and obligations under the bill. The opposition's amendments are in relation to extending the protections under the bill to all persons, not just public servants who make a disclosure on public administration matters. I understand the government has indicated that such protections are unnecessary, as members of the public will not require protections if they are disclosing information relating to public administration, as the scope for retribution for the disclosure would be minimal.
I also question whether the protections will include those public servants who are directly affected by the disclosure, and a clear answer has not been provided. At this stage, I reserve my position on these amendments. I indicate my support for the bill overall as I believe it is important that people are given the confidence to speak out when they see something wrong, and can do so with the knowledge that they will not be victimised because they are doing the right thing. These often involve very delicate and sensitive matters, and I hope that by improving these provisions, it will encourage more people to speak out.