New Protection Rules Needed to Maximise Whistleblowing
2 May 2016 at 10:22 am
The Australian leaders of one of the largest research projects into whistleblowing have called for comprehensive law reform to maximise the benefits of whistleblowing and improve employer management in the workplace.
The call came at the launch of the Australian Research Council project Whistling While They Work 2 on Friday.
Project leader Professor A J Brown said there was broad consensus that new laws and standards were needed to support whistleblowing, but as yet there was little guidance on what form they should take.
“As a result, given the negativity that dominates much current debate over how to respond to problems of corporate culture, regulatory capacity and whistleblower mistreatment, we risk missing some of the greatest opportunities for solving these issues,” Professor Brown said.
“Perhaps the single greatest opportunity is the high proportion of Australian companies who already know their own people can be the best and fastest way to find out about significant problems of wrongdoing or culture – but who, like all organisations worldwide, lack clear guidance on the tools and systems needed to properly encourage and protect whistleblowing in practice.
“The same is true of regulators – it is too easy to criticise corporate leaders, attack regulators and paint a picture of whistleblowers as overwhelmingly ignored and mistreated, when we know that in both government and business, there are positive efforts and lessons, not just negative ones.”
The Whistling While They Work 2 research project is focused on identifying current and potential best practice in organisational management of whistleblowing, based on comprehensive evidence drawn from research across Australian and New Zealand organisations.
Brown said the Australian-led project stood to be the largest in the world to date, and was the first to attempt systematic comparison of organisational experience in maximising whistleblowing in a consistent way across the public and private sectors.
Led by researchers from Griffith University, Australian National University, University of Sydney and Victoria University of Wellington, the project is supported by 22 regulatory and professional organisations including the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), CPA Australia, Governance Institute of Australia, Australian Institute of Company Directors and Transparency International Australia, along with the state and commonwealth ombudsmen.
Brown said there were two phases to the research – a survey of organisational processes and procedures, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is open to all organisations, from now until June, and a more comprehensive survey of staff, managers and systems in those organisations that elect to participate in depth called Integrity@WERQ.