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Tuesday, 22 May 2001
Page: 26808

Mr Laurie Ferguson asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 27 March 2001:

(1) Does the Defence Whistleblower Scheme, as detailed in Circular Memorandum 48/97 of 24 July 1997, have a statutory basis; if so, under what legislation or regulations does the scheme operate.

(2) If the scheme does not have a statutory basis, what are the implications of this for potential whistleblowers.

(3) Are complaints of wrongdoing under the scheme to be disclosed only to staff of the Fraud Investigation and Recovery Directorate on a need to know basis; if so, what redress is available to whistleblowers if the content of their complaint is disclosed to others without their consent.

(4) Are whistleblowers to be given organisational protection against harassment or career threatening retaliatory action; if so, who within Defence is responsible for providing such protection and what redress is available to whistleblowers who subsequently experience harassment and retaliatory action.

(5) Does the Inspector-General's unit maintain statistics on the number of allegations of wrongdoing received under the scheme; if so, how many such allegations have been recorded since July 1997.

(6) As a result of allegations of wrongdoing received under the Scheme, how many individuals have been successfully prosecuted for offences under (a) the Crimes Act 1914, (b) the Public Service Act 1922 or (c) the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982.

Mr Reith (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) It is an administrative scheme. The Department of Defence is presently developing a whistleblower scheme that meets the statutory obligations under Section 16 of the Public Service Act 1999 and Division 2.2 of the Public Service Regulations.

(2) The scheme is administrative in nature and therefore most actions taken under the scheme are administrative. However, where it can be proven that breaches of the Crimes Act 1914, the Public Service Act 1999 or the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 have occurred, then action under the relevant legislation is normally taken.

(3) Under the Defence Whistleblower Scheme, no assurances are given to whistleblowers that the allegations they make will not be disclosed in the course of investigation. Indeed, if allegations against an individual appear to have some foundation then natural justice requires that the individual concerned be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations.

(4) Any member of Defence, whether a whistleblower or not, should be protected from harassment, victimisation, discrimination or retaliation. Where an individual signals that this may occur, then it is the responsibility of the Group Manager to take avoiding or remedial action. If a member of Defence was subject to harassment, victimisation, discrimination or retaliation, then it is expected that the matter would be referred for investigation with a view to disciplinary action being taken against the individuals concerned.

(5) Records indicate that the Inspector-General Division has received allegations from 16 whistleblowers since 1 July 1997.

(6) As a result of the allegations made by the 16 whistleblowers since 1 July 1997, one person has been prosecuted under the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982 and consideration is presently being given as to whether changes should be brought against a second person. Three further cases are currently still under investigation.