The Law Council of Australia has endorsed the recommendations of two new reports about ways to improve national protections for whistleblowers.
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC (pictured) has expressed support for a proposal to establish a Whistleblower Protection Authority, underscoring the need for accountability and trust.
“Effective whistleblower protection is critical in promoting integrity, accountability and trust in our public and private institutions,” Ms McLeod said.
The proposal to create an authority with oversight of the implementation of a national whilstleblower regime is one of a number of recommendations set out in two reports published this week.
As the peak representative body for lawyers in Australia, the LCA applauded the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services and the Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission.
Ms McLeod said that several of the latest recommendations put forward by both parliamentary groups were consistent by the LCA’s views concerning a new legal regime to protect whistleblowers.
In particular, she said that whistleblower protections should include remedies for reprisals and the ability for compensation against adverse action in the private sector.
KPMG responded to the proposal by pointing out that any rewards payable under the proposed system would be far more modest than any of the payments awarded to whistleblowers in the United States.
KPMG forensic director Lauren Witherdin said that she believed this was likely to be the case because of the softer penalties that Australian whistleblowers face compared to their US counterparts.
“The reward system proposed by the committee is a very different proposition to the US-style system. It places a cap on the reward available to a whistleblower and would require a very strict set of criteria to be considered in determining the reward payment,” Ms Witherdin said.
“The proposals cleverly retain many of the advantages of a rewards system while including strict criteria to be considered that will likely result in Australia avoiding many of the negative consequences attributed to a US-style system,” she said.
She added that it would result in more Australian whistleblowers coming forward. KPMG operates its own whistleblowing service to clients on a confidential basis.
In April, the LCA made submissions to a Senate hearing calling for uniformity on whistleblower laws in all Australian states and territories.
The LCA also welcomed news last year, when amendments to Fair Work laws passed through the Senate in November 2016, giving better protection to whistleblowers.
Ms McLeod said that the LCA would continue to liaise with Parliament on the issue.
“Efforts to stamp-out corruption globally, regionally and domestically are to be applauded.
“We urge the government to closely consider these reports,” she said.