The Federal Government has signalled its intention to provide statutory protections for financial whistleblowers in the financial services industry and elsewhere in the economy, citing the poor treatment meted out to Commonwealth Financial Planning former financial planner, Jeff Morrison.
The Government’s intentions were outlined by the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer in a speech to a Melbourne University forum, which cited the toll the Commonwealth Financial Planning incident had taken on Morris.
“Look at the case of Jeff Morris – probably Australia’s best known recent whistleblower, who, as most of you would be aware, blew the whistle on misconduct in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s financial planning arm in 2008,” she said. “Exposing the bank’s misconduct has taken a serious toll on Mr Morris.”
“His anonymity was not protected, he was subject to death threats, he lost his job and in the end he lost his whole family. This is absolutely unacceptable. We want to make the wrongdoer – not the whistleblower – the focus. The Turnbull Government is determined to change our whistleblower laws to better protect people like Jeff Morris,” O’Dwyer said.
While signalling that the Government is still ambivalent about instituting a reward system for whistleblowers, O’Dwyer said it had set its sights on a stronger legal framework: “one that provides whistleblowers with the confidence and the protections to make disclosures; that empowers regulators to take swift, effective action; and which also provides procedural fairness to those who are the subject of a whistleblower’s disclosure”.
“We will strengthen the corporate regime, so that whistleblowers feel more confident in making disclosures through anonymous reporting and protection of their identity,” she said. “We will expand the scope to include a broader class of people who can qualify for protection. And importantly, we will improve access to compensation should whistleblowers be the subject of reprisals.”
“We recognise the need to toughen and harmonise corporate whistleblower protections with those in the public sector and to introduce comparable protections for those who blow the whistle on tax misconduct, which sorely lacks protections,” O’Dwyer said. “I believe strongly that no one should be worse off for blowing the whistle on misconduct and that all whistleblowers should have greater access to compensation if they suffer a detriment as a result of their whistleblowing.”