Posted on June 24, 2011 by Frances Tse

Further expansion of protection to whistleblowers for local government matters

Changes are proposed to the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (PID Act) by the Public Interest Disclosures Amendment Bill 2011 to expand the matters that whistleblowers may disclose to the Chief Executive, Local Government.

Currently, the only type of disclosure made to the Chief-Executive that may be protected under the PID Act is disclosure of information that shows or tends to show serious and substantial waste of local government money. This will be expanded to also include information that shows or tends to show corrupt conduct, maladministration, government information contravention or local government pecuniary interest contravention.

Information that shows local government pecuniary interest contravention was not previously protected under the PID Act. It covers information regarding a breach of an obligation imposed by the Local Government Act 1993 (LG Act) in connection with a pecuniary interest. This would include any contravention of the provisions in the LG Act requiring disclosure of pecuniary interests.

If the Bill is passed, public officials who disclose information on these additional matters to the Chief Executive may be protected under the PID Act from reprisal and may not be subject to any liability, action, claim or demand for making that disclosure.

Other amendments proposed to be made to the PID Act include:

  • changing all references to ‘protected disclosures’ to ‘public interest disclosure’ (in line with the change in name of the PID Act),
  • requiring councils to report to the Ombudsman each quarter on the council’s compliance with its obligations under the PID Act,
  • clarifying that the the general manager of a council is responsible for ensuring that the council has a public interest disclosure policy (when that becomes mandatory on 1 July 2011), that staff are aware of and comply with that policy and the protections under the Act, and that the council complies with the policy and the Act.  

We will follow and report in the passage of the Bill.