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Public Interest Disclosures Bill 2007 [2008]

Part 1 Preliminary

1   Short title

                   This Act may be cited as the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2007 .

2   Commencement

                   This Act commences on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.

3   Purpose

                   The purposes of this Act are to increase the transparency and accountability of institutions of government by:

                     (a)  facilitating the disclosure of information in the public interest; and

                     (b)  ensuring that disclosures of information in the public interest are properly dealt with; and

                     (c)  providing protection for public officials who disclose information in the public interest, including relief from liability at law.

4   Act binds the Crown

             (1)  This Act binds the Crown in all its capacities.

             (2)  Nothing in this Act renders the Crown liable to be prosecuted for an offence.

5   Interpretation

             (1)  In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears:

agency head means:

                     (a)  an agency head within the meaning of section 7 of the Public Service Act 1999 ; or

                     (b)  the Chief Executive or person responsible for any Commonwealth agency or body subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 ; or

                     (c)  the Chief Executive or person responsible for any Commonwealth agency or body subject to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 .

detrimental action means any act or omission which causes detriment to any person, in which it was a ground of any significance that a public official had made or may make a public interest disclosure, and includes but is not limited to:

                     (a)  personal injury or prejudice to safety;

                     (b)  property damage or loss;

                     (c)  intimidation or harassment;

                     (d)  adverse discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment about career, profession, employment, trade or business;

                     (e)  dismissal from employment;

                      (f)  reduction of pay or duties;

                     (g)  termination of contracts or services;

                     (h)  bringing a civil action alleging breach of a duty of secrecy or confidentiality or of any other restriction on disclosure;

                      (i)  disciplinary action under a written law;

                      (j)  threats of detriment;

                     (k)  financial loss.

improper conduct means a breach or attempted breach of the standards of conduct that would be expected of a public official by reasonable persons with knowledge of the duties, powers and authority of the position, and includes but is not limited to:

                     (a)  conduct that involves, or that is engaged in for the purpose of, a public official abusing his or her office as a public official;

                     (b)  conduct of a person (whether or not a public official) that adversely affects, or could adversely affect, either directly or indirectly, the honest performance of a public official’s or a public body’s functions; or

                     (c)  conduct of a public official that amounts to the performance of any of his or her functions as a public official dishonestly or with inappropriate partiality;

                     (d)  conduct of a public official, a former public official or a public body that amounts to a breach of public trust;

                     (e)  conduct of a public official, a former public official or a public body that amounts to the misuse of information or material acquired in the course of the performance of his, her or its functions as such (whether for the benefit of that person or body or otherwise);

                      (f)  conduct that perverts, or that is engaged in for the purpose of perverting, the course of justice;

                     (g)  conduct that, having regard to the duties and powers of a public official, is engaged in for the purpose of corruption of any other kind;

                     (h)  a conspiracy or attempt to engage in conduct referred to in paragraphs (a) to (g).

journalist  means a person engaged in the occupation of writing or editing material intended for publication in the print or electronic news media.

matter of national environmental significance has the meaning given in Part 3 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 .

member of the Australian Federal Police has the meaning given in the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 .

member of the Australian Defence Force means an officer, soldier, sailor or airman under the Defence Act 1903 .

private grievance includes any complaint by a public official about:

                     (a)  action taken by his or her employer in relation to his or her employment, other than alleged detrimental action under this Act, that otherwise raises no issues of public interest; and

                     (b)  conduct taken against him or her personally by any individual or individuals, other than alleged detrimental action under this Act, that otherwise raises no issues of public interest.

public interest information means information that shows, tends to show, or that the person providing the information believes on reasonable grounds shows or tends to show, that in relation to the discharge of a Commonwealth public function, a person, authority or corporation has undertaken or proposes to undertake:

                     (a)  improper conduct; or

                     (b)  a serious breach of the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct established by section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999 (other than a breach giving rise only to a private grievance); or

                     (c)  a serious breach of the Parliamentary Service Code of Conduct established by section 13 of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 (other than a breach giving rise only to a private grievance); or

                     (d)  administrative action that is unjust, discriminatory, unfair or otherwise wrong under the Ombudsman Act 1976 ; or

                     (e)  action contrary to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 ; or

                      (f)  abuse of a decision-making power granted under Commonwealth legislation; or

                     (g)  a misuse of public resources (other than an alleged misuse based on mere disagreement over policy that may properly be adopted about amounts, purposes or priorities of expenditure); or

                     (h)  an act or omission that constitutes an offence under a law of the Commonwealth; or

                      (i)  an act or omission that involves a substantial risk of:

                              (i)  injury to a person; or

                             (ii)  prejudice to the security of the Commonwealth; or

                            (iii)  a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance; or

                      (j)  detrimental action against any person as a result of a public interest disclosure.

public official includes:

                     (a)  any person employed by the Commonwealth of Australia, whether as an Australian Public Service employee or by any other Commonwealth body or agency;

                     (b)  a senator or member of the House of Representatives;

                     (c)  a judicial officer;

                     (d)  a person, organisation or corporation contracted to provide goods or services to a Commonwealth department or agency;

                     (e)  an employee of a person, organisation or corporation contracted to provide goods or services to a Commonwealth department or agency;

                      (f)  a person undertaking any activities as a volunteer subject to the supervision of a Commonwealth department or agency;

                     (g)  a person employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 ;

                     (h)  a member of the Australian Defence Force;

                      (i)  a person who has occupied, but no longer occupies, one of the positions described in this definition, but only with respect to conduct which occurred while he or she occupied a position described in this definition.

6   Parliamentary immunity not affected

             (1)  Nothing in this Act affects the immunity of proceedings in Parliament under section 49 of the Constitution and the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 .

             (2)  A public interest disclosure made to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives under section 8 may be referred by the President or the Speaker to a committee of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, in accordance with a procedure of that House, or to the Senate or the House of Representatives, respectively.