Open Government Partnership – Australia

1.1 - Improve whistle-blower protections in the tax and corporate sectors

We will improve whistle-blower protections for people who disclose information about tax misconduct to the Australian Taxation Office. We will also consult on other reform options to strengthen and harmonise whistle-blower protections in the corporate sector with those in the public sector.

Objective
Australia will ensure appropriate protections are in place for people who report tax evasion or avoidance, corruption, waste, fraud and misconduct within the corporate sector.

Status Quo
The prevention of tax evasion or avoidance, corruption, waste and fraud relies upon appropriate protections for people who report these wrongdoings.

Australian public servants who act as whistle-blowers already have significant protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act). This is in contrast to Australia's corporate whistle-blower framework, which lags behind the PID Act. Current protections are overly narrow and make it unnecessarily difficult for those with information to qualify for protections.

A research project into public interest whistleblowing, Whistling While They Work 2, led by Griffith University, is currently underway and looking into improvements across the public and private sectors.

In the 2016-17 Budget, the Government announced it would introduce whistle‑blower protections for people who disclose information about tax misconduct to the Australian Taxation Office.

Ambition
To reduce tax evasion or avoidance, corruption, waste and fraud by protecting people who report such activities.

Relevance
This commitment will advance the OGP values of public accountability and transparency by:

  • encouraging, protecting and compensating whistle-blowers whose information reveals artificial tax structures and misconduct;
  • reducing tax misconduct and other forms of corruption, fraud and waste by ensuring whistle-blowers are protected from retribution; and
  • ensuring tax and corporate private sector whistle-blowers have similar protections to public sector whistle‑blowers.

OGP Grand Challenge

  • Increasing Corporate Accountability
  • More Effectively Managing Public Resources

Timeframes
December 2016 – December 2017

Lead agency
Treasury

Other actors involved
Government: Australian Taxation Office, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Attorney-General’s Department and other relevant agencies

Non-government: Board of taxation, tax advisors, law and accounting bodies, non-government organisations and academia

Milestones

  1. Policy development to introduce tax whistle-blower protections and options to strengthen and harmonise corporate whistle-blowing protections with those in the public sector.
    • October - December 2016
  2. Public consultation on tax and corporate whistle blower protections
    • December 2016 - March 2017
  3. (i) Development and exposure of draft legislation for tax whistle blower protections.
    (ii) Recommendation to Government on reforms to strengthen whistle-blower protections in the corporate sector.
    • May - July 2017
  4. Finalisation of legislation for tax whistle-blower protections.
    • August - December 2017