The Australian Greens have successfully amended Labor's whistleblower legislation to ensure that our environment will be protected.
Under the original scheme, someone raising concerns about a threat to the environment would be forced to wait for over 100 days before they could take their concerns to the media. Now they can disclose wrongdoing or regulatory failures immediately.
"This is a significant improvement to the legislation to make sure events like the Montara oil spill of 2009 can be stopped before they destroy places that are too precious to lose" Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said.
"While we are really proud to have secured this important change, we are disappointed Labor has refused to include MPs in the scheme or to give the Minister the discretion to financially reward whistleblowers.
"Currently, brave public servants who come forward to expose corruption or maladministration usually do so at great personal, emotional and financial cost.
"In a case like that of Mr Alan Kessing, who released information about security processes at airports, he ended up with a criminal conviction and a $70,000 personal debt for court costs and I don't believe that is right."
The Greens now want to see comprehensive whistleblower protections extended to the private sector so those Commonwealth Bank employees who limited the damage from a financial adviser's recklessness, not only are legally protected in their employment, but can be financially rewarded as well.
"The Greens want financial rewards to have a powerful impact on those who contemplate wrongdoing. They would stop in their tracks if they knew their colleagues could be rewarded for exposing them," Senator Milne said.
The Greens also moved amendments to ensure that it is not one rule for the public service and another for politicians.
"For the Government to exempt themselves from the standards, rights and obligations it is seeking to impose upon all other public officials is wrong. Such special treatment simply reinforces the public's perception that politicians are diligent at arranging their affairs to protect their own interests," Senator Milne said.
The Greens amendments:
- Included the environment as subject-matters covered by the emergency disclosure provisions.
- Ministers, Speaker, President, MPs and staff employed under the Members of Parliament Staff Act 1984 should be included within the scheme.
- Allow external disclosures where it would not disclose information or conduct which is likely to pose a risk to national security.
- The Minister should be able to exercise a general, non-compulsive power to make ex gratia payments to a discloser where the public interest warrants it.
- Ensured the Ombudsman could investigate the way an agency has treated their employee after coming forward with claims of wrongdoing.