Majority of Australians Want Stronger Whistleblower Protections

Seven in 10 Australians want more legal protections for whistleblowers and say that whistleblowers make Australia a better place, finds new research by The Australia Institute and the Human Rights Law Centre.

Key Findings:

  • Over 7 in 10 Australians (71%) agree that whistleblower protections for public servants should be strengthened
  • The vast majority of Australians (75%) say that whistleblowers make Australia a better place.
  • The majority of Australians (61%) people say that whistleblowing strengthens national security and our system of government.
  • More than one in two Australians (52%) say that the Australian Government is too secretive about how it deals with allegations of corruption. 26% say it is ‘about right’, 11% say it is too open.
  • About half of Australians do not believe that Bernard Collaery should be jailed for his whistleblowing, while only 24% disagreed.

“Whistleblowers show great courage and strength of character to expose government misconduct and wrongdoing,” said Bill Browne, Senior Researcher at the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program.

“The Morrison Government is prosecuting whistleblowers and their lawyers for revealing uncomfortable truths about government overreach and the misuse of intelligence.

“Along with police raids on journalists and news organisations, the Government’s prosecution of whistleblowers shows a callous disregard for accountable government and freedom of speech.

“The Government has sat on recommendations to improve Australia’s whistleblower legislation for half a decade, in defiance of the vast majority of Australians want more legal protections for whistleblowers,” Mr Browne said.

“Whistleblowers make Australia a better place – and Australians know that. From war crimes in Afghanistan to misogyny in Parliament House, there are many things we would not know without the courageous actions of those who spoke up,” said Kieran Pender, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre.

“But Australia’s whistleblowers are suffering. They are losing their jobs, being mistreated and, in some cases, even face jail for doing the right thing. What don’t we know because too many Australians are afraid of the consequences of speaking up?

“It is unconscionable that the Government has neglected whistleblowing reform since an independent review in 2016. Whistleblowers deserved to be protected, not punished – and our laws should reflect that.

“This Government should commit to reforming the Public Interest Disclosure Act – as it has promised – before the next election,” Mr Pender said.