O’Dwyer announces proposed whistleblower reforms

Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer has released a new paper for public consultation, which looks to assess the adequacy of existing whistleblower protections and implement new protections.

In a statement yesterday, Ms O’Dwyer released the 'Review of tax and corporate whistleblower protections in Australia' consultation paper aimed at assisting the government with implementing protections for tax whistleblowers and reviewing the adequacy of existing whistleblower protections in the corporate sector.

The paper suggests there are shortcomings in existing protections for corporate whistleblowers under the Corporations Act 2001.

These shortcomings include: a narrow definition of who qualifies as a whistleblower; insufficient protections for anonymous disclosures; a limited selection of organisations or bodies that a whistleblower can disclose information to; insufficient protection of a whistleblower’s identity; unclear compensation arrangements; and weak protection for whistleblowers around retaliation and victimisation.

The review paper also acknowledges the absence of any protection for tax whistleblowers who disclose information about the taxation arrangements and behaviours of companies.

The government proposes the implementation of protections around tax whistleblowers' identity, victimisation, compensation, rewards and the establishment of an independent advocacy body.

“Whistleblowing plays a critical role in uncovering corporate and tax misconduct,” Ms O’Dwyer said in the statement.

“Active protection of whistleblowers to encourage them to make disclosures is essential and the government is determined to ensure it has the right legislative settings in place to achieve this, while at the same time ensuring disclosures can be fully investigated and that procedural fairness is provided to those who may be the subject of a disclosure,” the Minister said.

The paper has been released as part of the Open Government National Action Plan and is intended to complement the work of the recently established parliamentary inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors, the treasury website said.

The consultation paper is available on the treasury website and stakeholders are invited to comment on the consultation paper by lodging a submission online, the statement said.

Submissions for the consultation will close on 10 February 2017.

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