Senate debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022



1:48 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

PATRICK () (): At the commencement of this parliament, in response to representations I made to then Senator Cormann, the government undertook to introduce legislation that would improve protections for public-sector whistleblowers. As this parliament draws to a close, we find ourselves with yet another case of all announcement and no substance. The Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, who is sitting opposite, made an announcement recently, saying that they would flick it to the next parliament. That sounds a little bit like an ICAC.

These reforms are essential. Public-sector workers need to have the courage to stand up and be able to call out inappropriate conduct, illegal conduct and maladministration. They can't do that when they don't have any protection. And it's even worse than that. Let's look at some of the people who have very bravely come forward. Richard Boyle, an Adelaide constituent, came forward and blew the whistle on the tax office's abuse of garnishee powers. Sadly, he is in court now dealing with the fallout from that because the ATO did not properly process his claim.

We've got others: Witness K, who, sadly, has already been convicted; Bernard Collaery, a brave, brave person, honoured now by the Timor-Leste parliament; and David McBride, who revealed war crimes in Afghanistan. All of them are being persecuted for it. We cannot have this situation. It erodes our democracy when whistleblowers can't come forward and call out wrongdoing inside government. That just seems to be what the government wants. (Time expired)