Update re whistle – blower regime

In our “Regulatory spring clean” article of the December 2017 Edition (available here), we reported the draft whistleblower legislation, being the Treasury Laws Amendment (Whistleblowers) Bill 2017 released on 23 October 2017, was to go before an expert advisory panel to consider the recommendations from the Federal Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services (PJC) report on whistleblower protections.

That process has now been completed with further submissions being made in February and a further public hearing taking place on 6 March. The Senate Economics Legislation Committee (Committee) subsequently tabled its report to Parliament on 22 March (available here).

In the report, the Committee has made three recommendations and noted a range of other issues raised during this further stage of consultation. Significantly, the Committee has recommended that the bill be passed as it is currently drafted, subject to an explicit requirement for review being included in the bill. This review requirement reflects that while the Committee was satisfied that on balance “the bill is a move in the right direction and will be a valuable contribution to whistleblower protection“, further work is still to be done by the government.

Interestingly, in the section of the Committee’s report titled “Views on the bill”, the report addressed the recommendations made by the PJC that were not reflected in the draft bill. Probably one of the more controversial recommendations by the PJC was the recommendation that a reward/bounty system be introduced (like that run by the US Securities Exchange Commission). Submissions for and against were put forward, with the Committee ultimately leaving it out of their recommendations. Labor and the Greens however are still pushing hard for its introduction through their “Additional Comments” attached to the report. It will be interesting to see if the bounty system gets attention when the bill goes before Parliament.

The bill is still scheduled to take effect from 1 July 2018, with whistleblower policies needing to be in place by 1 January 2019 (for public companies and large proprietary companies), but these dates could change. We will keep an eye on this. The Government still has to release its response to the PJC report before the bill goes before Parliament.

This article was written by Jason Symons, Partner.

Jason Symons

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