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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 1 August 2018) . . Page.. 2561 ..

wholeheartedly support the ACT’s whistleblower protection mechanisms in the territory in the form of the Public Interest Disclosure Act. Whistleblower protection, or public interest disclosure, is an issue we have longed advocated for in the ACT, and that is why we included it in the 2008 parliamentary agreement, which resulted in the 2012 legislation.

PID laws are a very important mechanism for public accountability and operate in conjunction with other accountability mechanisms to ensure we have a robust accountability framework. As the ACT government grows and the role it fulfils increases in complexity, it is inevitable that, as is the case for any large institution, there will be times when things go wrong. At these times we need sometimes to rely on the integrity of public servants to speak up to prevent or correct the wrongdoing, and it is important to have a scheme in place to protect those who are prepared to stand up and speak out against the wrongdoing.

Our PID scheme in the ACT is similar to those in other jurisdictions but essentially picks up on all the best elements to ensure we have the best possible scheme in the territory. The Greens believe whistleblower protection should be properly embedded in Australian workplace relations law so that the bulk of whistleblowers, who are employees, can have more effective access to appropriate remedies, including compensation, for any detriment suffered as a result of speaking up. While there has been some improvement at the federal level in recent years, we believe it could go a lot further.

In terms of Miss Burch’s motion more specifically, there is always a danger in using data from just one annual report to draw a conclusion, especially as in the ACT we are often talking about very small numbers. The short answer as to why Health and JACS have higher numbers of public interest disclosures than other directorates is that these are much bigger directorates and, therefore, to some extent this might be anticipated.

Let me put it in other and more specific terms: the nine public interest disclosures in health and JACS Miss Burch refers to in her motion, and which make up just over half of the 17 PIDs in the ACT in 2016-17, come from two agencies which account for about 42 per cent of the ACT government workforce. I think that points to some sort of pro rata impact. But it is also worth noting that in the year prior—if you look at the previous annual report—there were 12 public interest disclosures and JACS and Health only made up four out of the 12, or one-third of the PIDs, so below their proportion. This speaks to many factors in the ACT, where small numbers can mean percentages can move about wildly.

Miss Burch makes at least an insinuation of a conclusion in her motion, and I do not think that insinuation can be drawn just on the data alone. It perhaps warrants further and more detailed analysis of the data if any conclusions are to be drawn on that.

The other part of Miss Burch’s motion calls on the government to produce a report on the effectiveness of current PID legislation and other workplace mechanisms. Miss Burch may not be aware, because I think it was before she came to this place, but the Select Committee on an Independent Integrity Commission also looked at the PID legislation, alongside other accountability and integrity measures. To ensure all

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