Labor abandons whistleblowers

The Weatherill Labor Government’s opposition to Liberal amendments that would have strengthened whistleblower protection laws in the Public Interest Disclosure Billhas resulted in the Bill being deadlocked.

“The Weatherill Labor Government’s refusal to expand the options for whistleblower disclosure has killed the reforms and delivered a severe blow to open and accountable government in South Australia,” said Shadow Attorney-General Vickie Chapman.

“This is a good day for corruption and maladministration in South Australia and a bad day for open and accountable government.

“The Liberal amendments, based on the recommendations of ICAC Commissioner Bruce Lander, would have enabled whistleblowers to go to journalists as a last resort where there was a failure to investigate the information provided by the whilstleblower. 

“Whistleblowers have a critical role in exposing official corruption and they must be protected from retribution.

“The Weatherill Government has put its political interest before the public interest in opposing this important check on corruption, waste and maladministration.” 

The reforms were supported by the Greens, Australian Conservatives, Dignity and Mr Darley. Only the Labor Party opposed this vital accountability measure.

Originally introduced by Shadow Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman, under the name the Whistleblowers Protection Amendment Bill 2016, the Bill protects whistleblowers and facilitates the disclosure of maladministration and waste in the public sector, corruption and illegal conduct.

“It is vital for individuals to be able to disclose matters of public importance, including maladministration and corruption, to journalists if no action is being taken elsewhere,” said Ms Chapman.

“The Bill would have made it an offence to interfere with someone’s right to speak out.

“Journalists must be able to guarantee their sources’ anonymity.

“Without genuine legal protection for both the journalist and their source, corruption, waste and illegal behaviour are less likely to be detected.”

In the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Annual Report 2015, Commissioner Lander detailed a survey of 7000 public servants revealing 1 in 4 were reluctant to report corruption, misconduct or maladministration and the most common concern being the personal and professional repercussions.