Jamie Parker MP, the NSW Greens spokesperson for anti-corruption, will later this month introduce a bill to protect whistle-blowers who voluntarily disclose to the ICAC.
This Bill provides legislative protection for the voluntary provision of information which is currently the case in other jurisdictions including disclosures brought to Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission.
The provisions in the Bill were first recommended by the ICAC in 2014 which formed the basis for an earlier version of this Bill in 2016. Following the voting down of that proposal, the Parliamentary Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption (‘ICAC’) endorsed the need for greater protections for whistle-blowers.
This new Bill is an updated version of Mr Parker’s 2016 Bill which incorporates the 10 recommendations given by the Parliamentary Committee in 2017, see here.
The government has failed to act to close the gap in the law since Mr Parker’s Bill was introduced in 2016. In 2017 their response to the report of the Parliamentary Committee stated that the government supports providing protections to people who make voluntary disclosures to the ICAC.
Mr Parker has pressed the government about the delay in enacting changes to the whistle-blower protection regime in parliament in June, see here.
Comment from Jamie Parker MP:
“People who blow the whistle on corruption in NSW do it in the public interest but at great personal risk.
“We need a system where the corrupt pay, not the brave individuals who expose their crimes.
“The current ICAC Act only provides limited protection against criminal and civil liability including liability for defamation or breach of confidentiality and disciplinary action by an employer.
“This protection does not apply where a person voluntarily discloses information to the Commission about corrupt conduct that the ICAC is not currently investigating, so claims have to be made under the Public Interest Disclosures Act.
“The government has known about this problem since I first introduced a Bill to protect anti-corruption whistle-blowers back in 2016 and for three long years they have failed to fix it.
“The current laws have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers who are forced to weigh up their instinct to report against the prospect of losing their job or being sued.
“These rangers have disclosed to the ICAC an alleged order to give preferential treatment to elected members of a local Council, been suspended and then terminated. The law I am proposing would seek to ensure that they have the full protection of ICAC and aren’t forced to pay a huge personal cost for doing what is right.
“The ICAC cannot effectively investigate corruption in NSW if witnesses are too scared to report.
“The strength of our political system often depends on the integrity of individuals who are prepared to take a stand. If the government is serious about stopping corruption, they will back my proposal,” he said.