1.1 - Improve whistleblower protections in the tax and corporate sectors
Completed but delayed
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.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2017 passed through Parliament on 19 February 2019. The Bill was first introduced into the Senate on 7 December 2017. The Bill is a significant milestone: it creates a single, comprehensive whistleblower protection regime covering the corporate, financial, insurance, superannuation, and credit sectors. It also establishes a new tax whistleblower protection regime to encourage and protect tax misconduct disclosures.
The Government formulated its whistleblower reforms following extensive public consultation and with advice from the Whistleblower Expert Advisory Panel.
On 22 March 2018, the Senate Economics Legislation Committee delivered a report (Senate Report) into the Bill. It made three recommendations including a recommendation that the Bill be passed. Additional comments were made by Labor and the Australian Greens, who made one recommendation. A dissenting report from Centre Alliance included twelve recommendations for the Bill.
Parliamentary amendments, which address many of the recommendations within the Senate Report, were passed by the Senate on 6 December 2018.
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. After receiving an extension, the report was released on 13 September 2017 (PJC Report).
The reforms in the abovementioned Bill address many of the recommendations in the PJC Report. The Government is considering the remaining recommendations and will release its response to each of the PJC Report recommendations in due course.
The Whistleblower Protections Bill is currently awaiting introduction into the House of Representatives and a Parliamentary vote. It will be considered in accordance with the Parliament’s order of business.
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 and Government appointed Expert Advisory Panel of academia and industry experts.
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
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.
||May-Jul 2017||Completed but delayed|
Finalise and introduce legislation for tax whistle-blower protections.
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||Completed but delayed|
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.