New protections for whistleblowers

New laws to protect whistleblowers come into effect tomorrow.

The new laws strengthen transparency and accountability in government, protect the identity of informants and allows them to pass on information to the relevant authorities without fear of reprisal.

The new Public Interest Disclosure Act 2018 will commence on July 1, 2019, replacing the Whistleblowers Protection Act 1993.

It creates two types of protection – those for any person wishing to report public interest information on environmental and health matters, and protections purely for public servants wishing to disclose allegations of public sector maladministration, corruption or misconduct.

Protections under the new Act only apply for those cases where the disclosure is made to a relevant authority (this can include the allocated responsible officer for an agency who has been trained to receive the information and who must then take appropriate action, as well as the Office for Public Integrity and the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment.)

If an informant has not been notified of proposed actions and the outcomes of those actions within the required timeframes, they are entitled to disclose the information to the media or a member of parliament with the same level of protection under the Act.

Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman said the change would give the community confidence in their public officials and was an important – and overdue – reform for South Australia.

“This was a key recommendation from Commissioner Bruce Lander’s review of whistleblower laws in 2014, and I am proud that this Government has managed to introduce it,” Ms Chapman said.

“We are now in a position where public sector employees who want to disclose information about public sector maladministration, corruption or misconduct can come forward and speak up, with the full protection of the law.”

Attorney-General Chapman said the while new Act provides added protections for those who make an appropriate public interest disclosure, it also makes it a criminal offence to victimise these same people, carrying a maximum penalty of a $20,000 fine or imprisonment for 2 years.

“These are important changes, and we will be urging all public sector employees to familiarise themselves with the new Act, and their responsibilities, should they wish to disclose potential corruption, misconduct or maladministration,” Ms Chapman said.

An online training program will be rolled out across all State Government agencies and information will be made available to members of the public and public sector employees on government websites.