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Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Page: 2135

Senator RONALDSON (5:40 PM) —by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

In relation to the ministerial statement on whistleblower protection, I have not as yet seen the recommendations referred to in the minister’s statement which I think were tabled today, but I note that the government agreed to 10 wholly, to 11 in principle and to one in part. It does not agree to the full recommendations. Given they were tabled only late this afternoon, the opposition are not in a position at the moment to say what we will or will not be supporting in that regard.

My understanding—and Minister Ludwig may be able to indicate if this is correct by nodding across the table—is that this was a unanimous report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. That is my understanding. I am working on that basis, but it may not be so, and I will clarify that in due course.

I do note that the government hopes to introduce whistleblower protection legislation by the end of the year. I have a feeling that in this term of parliament that will not be relevant. But I think it is worth while placing on the public record that, while this was an election commitment—as the ministerial statement says, ‘to provide best-practice legislation to encourage and protect public interest disclosures’—I note that it took some seven-plus months after the election for the Attorney-General to refer the matter to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for it to consider and report on a preferred model. It is a very substantial report so I am not surprised that it took a further seven months for the committee to prepare that. But I do note that, according to the ministerial statement, that report was released on 25 February last year. So it has taken some 11 months for the government to respond to that committee report, which to me seems an inordinate amount of time for something that was apparently an election commitment by the government to ‘provide best-practice legislation’. The reality is that that legislation is unlikely to be introduced before the next election.

I will finish on this comment: there seems to be remarkable clearing of the decks, if I can put it that way, in relation to a whole range of things at the moment, but it is only delaying outcomes. With regard to this whistleblower protection legislation, the report came out in February 2009 and we now have the ministerial statement, in late March 2010, with an undertaking to do this by later this year. There seems to be remarkable slippage, and this is another example. I appreciate that the minister was not the minister at the time this was done, so it is not directed at him, but there is remarkable slippage. This is again another example of lots of words but very little action. I thank the chamber for the opportunity to speak briefly on this. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.