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1.1 - Protecting whistle-blowers

Overall status:
On-track

This commitment will ensure Australia has appropriate protections in place for people who report corruption, fraud, tax evasion or avoidance, and misconduct within the corporate sector. This will be achieved by:

  • introducing whistle-blower protections for people who disclose information about tax misconduct to the Australian Taxation Office; and

  • strengthening and harmonising corporate whistleblower protections with those available in the public sector.

In the 2016-17 Budget, the Government announced the introduction of new arrangements to better protect tax whistleblowers as part of its commitment to strengthening the integrity of Australia’s tax system. Currently, there are no specific protections for tax whistleblowers and the current range of tax secrecy and privacy provisions are incapable of guaranteeing absolute protection.

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; and

  • reducing other forms of corruption, fraud and misconduct by ensuring corporate whistle-blowers are encouraged to come forward, are protected and are compensated.

Current status

On 30 November 2016, the Senate referred an inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services for report by 30 June 2017. Submissions closed on 10 February 2017. On 14 June 2017, the Senate extended the reporting date from 30 June 2017 to 14 September 2017.

On 20 December, the Government released for consultation the paper titled the Review of Tax and Corporate Whistleblower Protections in Australia seeking public comments to assist the Government with the introduction of appropriate protections for tax whistleblowers and in assessing the adequacy of existing whistleblower protections in the corporate sector. Submissions closed on 10 February 2017.

The Government is progressing with reforms to introduce protections for tax whistleblowers and strengthening and harmonising the existing whistleblower protections in the corporate sector.

Public consultation on the exposure draft legislation for whistleblower protections occurred between 23 October 2017 and 3 November 2017. The legislation is scheduled to be introduced into the Parliament in December 2017.

Once enacted, a new whistleblower regime will protect disclosures made in relation to tax law. Corporate sector whistleblowing protections will also be strengthened to address existing deficiencies and bring those protections in line with what is considered to be domestic and international best practice.  

Other stakeholders

Government: Australian Taxation Office, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Attorney-General’s Department, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and other relevant agencies, state and territory governments, Parliament of Australia.

Non-Government:  Corporations, peak industry bodies (including Law Council of Australia, tax advisors, other law and accounting bodies), non-government organisations (including Australian Open Government Partnership Network, Transparency International Australia, Accountability Round Table), Board of Taxation,  academia, and whistle-blowers.

Steps to implementation

Implementation Step Implementation Period Status

Establish Parliamentary inquiry

Nov 2016 Completed

Treasury to release a public consultation paper covering both tax whistle-blower protections and options to strengthen and harmonise corporate whistle-blower protections with those in the public sector.

Dec 2016 Completed

Development and public exposure of draft legislation for tax whistle-blower protections (informed by consultation)

May-Jul 2017 Delayed

Recommendation to Government on reforms to strengthen and harmonise whistle-blower protections in the corporate sector with those in the public sector (informed by consultation).

May-Jul 2017 Completed

Finalise and introduce legislation for tax whistle-blower protections. 

Aug-Dec 2017 On-track

Introduce legislation to establish greater protections for whistle-blowers in the corporate sector, with a parliamentary vote no later than 30 June 2018.

Dec 2017-Jun 2018 Not yet commenced

Status updates for commitments are provided approximately every two months. With each update, agencies are encouraged to provide further and better particulars of the commitment and its steps to implementation, which may result in changes to timelines outlined in Australia’s first Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18.

Last updated: 01/12/2017

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