Whistleblowing, conduct & culture with Kieran Pender

Rely-ON-Podcast-Whistleblowing-Kieran-Pender

Host, Nathan Luker, is joined by whistleblowing expert Kieran Pender, a senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, to discuss the important role of whistleblowing in building a better, integrity-led workplace culture.

In this podcast (35 mins), Nathan and Kieran discuss:

  • The difference between a whistleblowing disclosure under the Corporations Act or Public Interest Disclosure Act versus speaking up about broader conduct and culture issues
  • The importance of having a ‘no wrong door’ policy, where employees are encourage to speak up if they experience or witness issues at work
  • The role of leaders to role model and support a psychologically safe culture where employees can speak up without fear of reprisals
  • The whistleblowing success stories – loyal employees who quietly improve their workplace by speaking up using the whistleblowing channels, and who never make the headlines
  • The role of every employee to be a leader and to speak up when they see or experience wrongdoing

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Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources that will help you explore the role of whistleblowing in building better, integrity-led workplace cultures.

Podcast Transcript

Nathan Luker: [00:00:01] Welcome to the Rely ON Podcast, a show that delivers practical insights for leaders to build better organisations where people can live, work and study. I’m Nathan Luker, co-founder at Rely, where we help some of the best known brands prevent, detect and respond to culture and conduct issues via our intelligent platform. Welcome back to the show. Today, I’m joined by Kieran Pender, a lawyer, academic and writer, and we’re discussing one of my favourite topics, whistleblowing. Kieran, you seem to be everywhere at the moment. You’re a senior lawyer in the Democratic Freedoms Team at the Human Rights Law Center, where you work to protect Australia’s whistleblowers and defend free speech. You’re an honorary lecturer at the ANU College of Law and a writer contributing to The Guardian, the Saturday paper and The Monthly. And you were named ACTU Law Society’s Young Lawyer of the Year. You stand up for what’s right. You say you seem to spend every waking minute defending whistleblowers and ensuring that they can speak up without fear. I’d love to start at the centre of your passion. What drives you? What’s led you to this point? To defend the rights of people who choose to speak up?

Kieran Pender: [00:01:15] Well, thanks Nathan for that very kind introduction. Well, I guess I’m sort of passionate about making Australia a better place. In my own modest way. I’m really fortunate to work at the Human Rights Law Center, an organisation that in many respects does great work to drive positive change in Australia. And I work in the Democratic Freedoms team and my particular expertise, as you said, is whistleblowing and whistleblower protections. I guess for me, the starting point is the truth matters. People should feel comfortable and empowered to speak up about the truth. Because the truth is at the heart of everything in our society. Without the truth, we don’t have our democratic system functioning in the way we expect. We don’t have a functioning legal system. We don’t have the sort of the bonds of social trust that enable us to sort of get along as a society. And so the truth matters. We need to do all we can to protect the truth and to enable people to speak up about the truth. But we know, unfortunately, too often, people who speak up about the truth suffer as a result. They suffer retaliation, reprisals in some egregious cases, ongoing cases which you might talk about, they suffer prosecution. So I guess a lot of my work is focused on changing that, changing the status quo, driving change, ensuring these laws we have actually work in practice and are practically accessible and trying to change the culture around whistleblowing in Australia.

Nathan Luker: [00:02:54] That’s something that you’ve always stood for in the school ground growing up? Was this something that drove you from an innate childhood perspective, or is something you grew into as your career began to form?

Kieran Pender: [00:03:06] I mean, I wish I had an elaborate back story to it, but I guess I come at it from two perspectives. So I started life as a journalist, actually as a sports journalist, but also writing on other things. And of course, to journalists, the truth matters and to journalists, whistleblowers are critically important. We need people speaking to us. For us to be able to do the role of the media as the fourth estate in holding the government and the powerful accountable. Then I was also studying law part time and working in employment law and working acting for public servants and worked in some early cases following the enactment of the Public Interest Disclosure Act of federal whistleblowing law in 2013. So I guess those sort of streams cross to an extent in that I always had this passion around the truth and sort of accountability that comes with it. And then was working in employment law and whistleblowing. Just one thing led to another and I’ve been working in that area ever since.

Nathan Luker: [00:04:11] On the theme of truth at the time of recording on 18th of October 2022, a lot of attention is on Richard Boyle and the situation that’s unfolding in relation to the Australian Tax Office, where Richard chose to speak up and tell the truth in the public interest. For our listeners, it would be beneficial if you could quickly outline the laws available to whistleblowers. What protects them? It’s relatively new, especially under the Corporations Act, and draw parallels between the PID Act that Richard is involved in and other regulations and laws in Australia.

Kieran Pender: [00:04:51] Yeah, certainly. So whistleblowing law in Australia and internationally recognises that the internal checks and balances, the internal avenues of people speaking up, sometimes fail. Sometimes things go wrong and internal speak up mechanisms, even external speak up mechanisms to regulators and so on don’t always do what they’re supposed to. And so the law recognises that the media and members of parliament and so on play an important role as a safety net, as a safety valve, as a sort of a last resort, in many cases where people can speak up publicly to raise awareness about wrongdoing. And that’s explicitly recognised in legislation. So the Public Interest Disclosure Act for public servants and the Corporations Act for private sector employees both recognise that, in certain instances, people are going to need to go public with their whistleblowing and they should be protected and empowered in doing that. Unfortunately I mean, on paper that all sounds sensible and straightforward, but the drafting of the relevant provisions are quite technical, Too technical one would say, and we have this really unfortunate position that two people who’ve tried to use these provisions are now facing trial. So Richard Boyle blew the whistle on wrongdoing at the tax office. The tax office was aggressively undertaking debt recovery against small business owners, sometimes sort of without due regard to the debts that were owing, without due regard to their individual circumstances, indeed without due regard to their mental health. He blew the whistle internally. He blew the whistle to the inspector general for taxation. Ultimately went to the ABC and the Sydney Morning Herald. And so he thought he was doing the right thing. He tried to follow all of these processes and only as a last resort did he go public. But he’s now on trial. And that case is ongoing and he’s arguing he’s protected and the issue there is did he tick all of the boxes, jump through all the hoops? Very similar case starts later this month. The McBride case, David McBride, served in Afghanistan for the Army, was a lawyer. He blew the whistle on allegations of unlawful killings by Australian forces of Afghan civilians. Once again, blew the whistle internally. Blew the whistle to oversight agencies only as a last resort did he allegedly go to the ABC in what became the Afghan files reporting and he too is defending his prosecution on the basis of this defence in the PID Act. So two alarming cases that are not in the public interest and demonstrate the failings in the PID Act. The fact that these guys are on trial is proof enough that the PID Act in its current form, is broken. But I guess also important demonstrations of the power of whistleblowing. You know, McBride’s whistleblowing obviously led to all of this attention on these issues ultimately happening in parallel with and the Brereton report then vindicated what the ABC had reported. Similarly, there’ve been a number of independent inquiries in the Boyle case by the Senate, by the Inspector General, by the Small Business Ombudsman, all of which has vindicated what Richard Boyle said. So in both cases, they told the truth. The truth made a difference, and yet they’re on trial. 

Nathan Luker: [00:08:33] It’s interesting to note, as well as Australians watch these two cases unravel, that whistleblowing in their world and organisation perspective can be far simpler. Every day multiple people choose to speak up, get labelled with the word whistleblower, but may not be up in lights as some of the noteworthy cases have been that we see play out in the media. The legislation is very technical. It’s terrific to see Australia shoot up the ranks from a global perspective, from where we were sitting in terms of the support of protection afforded to those who choose to speak up, but there’s a long way to go. Talking about an individual person needing to decipher the laws. One of the key things is improper conduct under the whistleblower laws and the Corporations Act. It’s deliberately not defined in the legislation and it can be complex to understand what is and isn’t a workplace grievance, what’s systemic, what isn’t systemic for the person sitting at home just wanting to do the right thing. Because I strongly believe that whistleblowers are and you’ve outlined passionately for the ones that are in the public eye at the moment, the most loyal employees, that they are the ones risking everything to do what’s right, what was told to them, or indoctrinated to them at the outset of joining the organisation, of what was held true and dear to the values of that organisation. How do you see conduct and culture risks fitting into the mix here? How does someone navigate that when they just want to speak up, when they say something that’s wrong? What advice can you give on that perspective?

Nathan Luker: [00:10:02] That’s a really good question, and I totally agree with your comments. A few things to say. The first is that I totally agree that there’s this disconnect between what we see at the high level in terms of whistleblowers in the public domain and the ordinary experience of blowing the whistle. And I do think it’s in some ways it is a concern on one hand that these are cases that have a chilling effect on other people speaking up. But actually, in my experience, a lot of people. I’ve had many clients who are whistleblowers who’ve said to me, you know, I didn’t intend to become a whistleblower. I didn’t think I was blowing the whistle. I thought I was just doing the right thing. And I do think it’s important, I guess, to bear in mind that that’s going to be the experience for a lot of people and that’s why it’s so important that you’ve got sort of speak up channels and practices and cultures around that, that are as simple but also as sort of multifaceted, allowing people to speak up in whatever avenue they sort of seek and giving them the support and guidance around that, because most people are not self-identifying with these labels. Now, the law is good in one respect in both the Corporations Act and the PID Act apply to you whether or not you identify that you’re making a disclosure. You don’t have to know you’re a whistleblower at the moment you disclose to be protected by whistleblowing law. That’s a good thing. But the flip side of that is that I think a lot of people, you know, they sort of go along doing what they think is right and then they realise they didn’t fully think through the legal implications until it’s too late. And so I think it’s so important that companies doing all they can to provide sort of robust, flexible avenues for reporting and the support and the guidance around that. Obviously, the workplace culture is critical to that and if you’ve got a culture of trust and psychological safety and a culture of speaking up, you’re going to have more people comfortable in raising awareness about issues. I do think one of the challenges with the law at the moment is that blurry line about what is covered, particularly in the private sector. But I guess my sort of response to that is that actually in a sense, it doesn’t really matter, whatever the law says. Now, of course, where the law is applicable, you’ve got to act according to that. But whether or not someone’s covered, if they’re raising a grievance at work, they’re raising a disclosure, raising an issue. So that’s what matters. And we’ve got to address the root cause of that, whether or not it falls neatly into this category or not, I think is sort of sometimes not quite getting at the core issue. But I do think we are seeing, and are going to continue to see, more need for consideration around some of those workplace culture bullying, harassment style issues in the workplace that actually do fall into the whistleblowing category without a lot of people realising it. I think that’s the next frontier in a way. Like we often type as we sort of conceptualise whistleblowing as someone blowing on the whistle of something they see and then we sort of think of people who blow the whistle on what happens to themselves as sort of complainants, victims or targets. Some of that language is problematic. 

Nathan Luker: [00:13:25] Bystanders. 

Kieran Pender: [00:13:26] I guess bystanders being the third parties, the whistleblowers. I guess the issue here I see is that a lot of the whistleblower protections actually apply to people who are blowing the whistle on bullying and discrimination and harassment, but often they treat it as a separate category of people speaking up. 

Nathan Luker: [00:13:45] Exactly.

Kieran Pender: [00:13:46] And I think there’s a lot of nuance there that’s still to be unpacked, both in terms of the law and how it’s operating in practice. But I think to me, the bottom line is, no matter who, no matter what the conduct is and no matter the issue, we can sort of support people, protect, support, empower them at a basic level. And then the law sort of sits sort of beside that.

Nathan Luker: [00:14:09] It’s an interesting perspective, with the opportunity to speak to the private sector and leaders on a daily basis. There is an agitation point with what we’re discussing. On a principal level, we want to have a no wrong door policy. So people at the workplace are human beings that may see something that doesn’t seem quite right, let’s facilitate them or enable them to be able to ask questions, speak up irrespective of the pathway that they choose. Let’s not make an assumption or force them down a reporting pathway that we think is appropriate. Let’s aim to be inclusive. Let’s aim to provide multiple ways for someone to ask questions, receive information, and to make a report, known or anonymous. However, then gets into the complexity and that web of what do I do after an issue is raised? Are they a whistleblower? Are they not? Do I need to tell them their rights about a qualifying disclosure? Do I not? What sector are we in? Are we private? Are we in the public sector? What advice would you give to leaders there? Do we need to over-communicate in that situation? So let’s take the theory a little bit a step further. We’ve said there’s no wrong door policy. You can speak up however you like. We’ll support you at an organisational level. We’ll protect you to the best of our ability. Do you think employers and leaders in the private sector or the public sector should be very much articulating the legal consequences, the legal steps? Should people be provided with access to legal support, external legal aid? We’re making these types of decisions. Do you have a viewpoint on that?

Kieran Pender: [00:15:39] Yeah, I mean, that’s a really complicated question. And I guess that’s the rubber hits the road as to how all this actually plays out in practice. I think communication is critical and making sure people are aware of their rights and obligations and I don’t think that has to come at the expense of a no wrong doors policy. I think those things can be compatible. Particularly, I think there’s still too often a disconnect between what our leaders are saying, what policies are saying, and what actually the perception is on the ground.

Nathan Luker: [00:16:13] Yep.

Kieran Pender: [00:16:13] Having done some work in sort of large organisations. Ultimately that’s the critical challenge is translating the legitimate, genuine attitude of leadership towards encouraging speaking up, encouraging people to call out wrongdoing and a perception that ultimately people will still suffer. And while ever that sort of perception continues at the employee level, there’s going to be issues that aren’t being flagged and addressed and so I think that’s the critical point. Then at a wider sort of structural level, I definitely think whistleblowers need more support in Australia. Because these laws are complicated. The legal rights of people speaking out about wrongdoing are complicated. In Australia we have a deficit in terms of avenues people can go to for practical support when they’re blowing the whistle, which compares unfavourably to other countries. Places like in the UK, there’s a group called Protect, formerly Public Concern at Work, a hotline for whistleblowers that’s been around for 25 almost 30 years now. There’s a similar body in the US, in Ireland, in Serbia, that actually help people in practice. So at the Human Rights Law Centre, we trying to, we’re in the early stages of trying to build up that sort of practical support for whistleblowers. There’s been a lot of talk around the government establishing a whistleblower protection authority or commissioner that would have some role in enforcing whistleblowing laws and providing that support. I think if you have workplace issues you call the Fair Work Ombudsman. If you have whistleblowing issues, there should be a whistleblower protection authority you can call to get advice and support. And then we need more private practice lawyers with expertise in this area. There are some access to justice issues there. There’s a lot of employees might not have the funds to seek that legal support. So we’re trying to address that through our work. In Victoria, there was talk of a pilot scheme under the Victorian whistleblowing law where the Victorian Government would pay for legal advice for whistleblowers in the Victorian Public service. That hasn’t yet come to fruition, but I think all of that gets to this core issue, that whistleblowers need practical support and guidance and they need it straight away. I’ve got so many people have come to me after it’s too late, after they’ve blown the whistle and things have gone wrong and maybe they didn’t take all the boxes or maybe they could have gone down slightly different avenues. And by that time, often it’s too late. Whereas people came to me earlier, it’d be a lot easier to help them in a practical and effective way. And so I think Australia has a long way to go in terms of practically empowering whistleblowers, but I think we are on that journey now. And so that’s promising.

Nathan Luker: [00:19:09] We’ve come a long way in recent time, but a long way to go. That’s an interesting point you raise, and I’ll go a step further as that people, employees and stakeholders before they become whistleblowers and are labelled with that term. They need that advice, that reassurance that they have access to that advice before they need it. They need to know that it’s going to be there if they choose to speak up and that others have done so successfully before them. And I think despite how passionate you and I are about whistleblowing, we’ve essentially spent our careers on opposite sides of the topic. So, yeah, I’m sitting on the Your Call side where we have the privilege of working with organisations and leaders who respect and protect people and want to make a systems or a framework change at their organisation, they don’t just want to appoint an anonymous web form or a hotline. They want to take a step further. They understand – right, I need to put in place a system that is here for good. We’re not going to remove it. It’s going to be here long after I leave as an individual or as a leader and it needs to work, irrespective of what is or isn’t a qualifying disclosure. And that’s been an interesting ride for leaders across Australia and us as a business, as we’ve seen all sorts of things come through the door. Things like schools working with large state based school bodies, working with a diverse stakeholder group who some are eligible whistleblowers under the Corporations Act and others are not. You know, there’s a mix there’s students, parents, guardians, employees, contractors. How do you form a speak up program that works, stands for good, but actually functions properly under the law? And how do you make those things known? So we’ve been in the trenches for the last few years helping leaders to decipher that and to build a program that actually adds value. On the other side, you have spent a career representing whistleblowers when the process has gone wrong and when people are in legal trouble and feel broken and if it wasn’t for people like you, I don’t think we’d stand a chance because it’s those types of situations that require help and especially those ones in the public eye that have a ripple effect on the everyday person wanting to speak up. What’s your perspective of when good governance or policy turns into a bad experience for the individual? I think we’re veering on that now. It’s where we get stuck between the practical application of the legal rules. For example, it’s when a board or CEO uses the black and white letter or the law as a defence to maybe ignore or to divert or to triage something that’s been spoken up, that probably should be properly, but may not fall into a qualifying disclosure. What can you share for leaders listening today to help them from, I guess, some of the battle scars you’ve been experienced in?

Kieran Pender: [00:21:59] Yeah, thanks. Before I answer that, I was interested to say we’re sort of coming at it from different sides of the fence. I guess I would see it as like we’re sort of on the same side of the fence, but just working at it from different angles.

Nathan Luker: [00:22:13] Different angles.

Kieran Pender: [00:22:14] I do work both at a macro level on law reform and then you’re doing that system sort of work. And then I also help people when things go wrong, as I guess we’re seeing in a different perspective. But then I guess to answer your question, I am always sort of hesitant because I do get the cases where things go wrong. I don’t see the full picture always, and it’s really helpful to have conversations with you and others about, you know, because in a lot of cases things do go right and people speak up and they never label themselves. They never self-identify as a whistleblower because they never have to and so I’m always cautious that my perspective, I guess, is somewhat influenced by the fact that I see a lot of the cases where things go wrong. To me, I think a real common theme in my work is when someone speaks up about wrongdoing by someone else within an organisation. Too often the organisation jumps to the defence of that person at the expense of the whistleblower. Very common. I see this in employment law generally, but particularly in the whistleblowing context. That when someone speaks up about someone else in an organisation, the organisation too often sort of sides with that person. And because they feel like the organisation feels like they’re under attack or under threat too. And therefore it sort of becomes quite adversarial. The person who’s alleged to have committed the wrongdoing and the organisation against the whistleblower. And I think that’s a really unfortunate situation. And now, of course, the person who is accused of the wrongdoing has rights, employment rights, rights to due process, procedural fairness and so on. But I think organisations need to be careful they don’t inadvertently sort of find themselves on the opposite side to the whistleblower. Because the whistleblower is trying to help. The whistleblower is speaking up because they believe in the organisation, they believe in what’s right and fair, and they want the organisation to address it. But too often they find themselves sort of at ten paces in this very adversarial contest with an organisation. I then I think that, unfortunately, a lot of bad experiences when people speak up, come down to a lack of communication. People speak up because they believe in what’s right, not because they want money or a payout, and typically not because they want to vindicate these legal rights they have available to them. They’re just trying to do the right thing. But what I find quite often unfortunately, it gets very protracted and whistleblowers are cut out of the process. They’re not told they’re not kept up to date with what’s going on. And they then find it a less satisfying experience and often they get disgruntled. They feel like things are being swept under the rug. They’re not being sort of kept informed. So I think involving whistleblowers in the process and more and more sort of best practice whistleblowing law requires that if you look at the EU directive. Being implemented in recent years, you know, there’s sort of obligations. Even the PID Act has obligations around informing the whistleblower. Some of that can be quite formalistic and quite sort of ongoing, o quite particularly the timeframes in the PID Act mean that months can go by, but I think sort of regular communication, of course, respecting confidentiality, respecting procedural fairness, but keeping people in the loop makes them happier and makes them feel involved and makes them feel like what they did was the right thing, which is what it is ultimately you know, I guess we get the crux of this. It’s about people seeing something that’s gone wrong, speaking up about it, we want to be rewarding and empowering people for doing that.

Nathan Luker: [00:26:04] Exactly right. We see motive is a topical subject for employers. So you were just mentioning around siding, with potentially the respondent. We see a lot the confusion around motive and just helping organisations realise motive is irrelevant. It’s about reasonable grounds. And that’s a really hard thing at times to get right. There may be a circumstance that’s occurring that’s not related to being a whistleblower. Performance management is the most common cliché example, and that gets messy when whistleblowers get treated poorly as well due to context or a perception around motive where that is essentially irrelevant to the matter at hand. They’re really useful points.

Kieran Pender: [00:26:51] Totally agree. Motive is a huge issue and I think it’s a bit of a red herring.

Nathan Luker: [00:26:56] Yeah.

Kieran Pender: [00:26:58] Because ultimately what matters is whether or not the wrongdoing that’s been disclosed is true is an issue. And of course, the legal standard gets to reasonable belief and so on. But fundamentally, is what this person spoke up about real? And is it a problem? And if it is, then who cares what the motive is? As you say, often whistleblowers are labelled with that, they’re malcontent, they’re, you know, being performance managed, whatever. It’s sort of a workplace grievance. Putting that all aside is what they spoke up about legitimate, because if it isn’t, then that’s a whole separate issue. But if it is, it doesn’t really matter why they’re speaking up. What matters is that there’s an issue for the company to address and then say thanks to the person for bringing it to their attention.

Nathan Luker: [00:27:46] Exactly right. And I think the end part there say thanks to bringing it to their attention is so overlooked when it’s been unsubstantiated. So putting in a system in place that’s respectful, tolerates someone speaking up and getting it wrong. No, you may have been wrong there or we haven’t got enough information to carry that further. We’ve done a really thorough review. Thanks. We really appreciate it. You’re safe. And these are the things that we learnt through the process and we’re going to do better next time from a holistic systems perspective, because how you do one thing, how you do everything. So I think for that system to work in the private sector, especially from a cultural perspective, but in public as well, you need to make sure that every single interaction when someone speaks up from a day to day basis is treated well and in line with your values, your processes and your policies, you can’t just pick and choose when you’re going to lace up the boots. I think one point not to understate is the everyday person who gets labelled a whistleblower. We can receive up to 10-20 reports a day. There are a few of those large incidents that happen on the mastheads, you know, with Richard’s case, etc. But every day there’s people speaking up and a high volume of people into the thousands per annum that are speaking very low rates of people doing so maliciously and it should be noted. So it is thanks to those everyday people that are speaking up for what’s right, that helps organisations thrive and prevent things from going wrong, hopefully sooner than they would otherwise have done so. Kieran, there’s a lot of talk at the moment about whistleblower protections and how they’re being considered by the Federal government as it prepares to introduce new laws for a national anti-corruption commission. There’s also talk of a whistleblower protection commissioner to support people who report corruption in the public sector and to enable them to seek damages. Can you help us understand what does this change mean for public sector organisations and Australia more broadly?

Kieran Pender: [00:29:46] Yeah. I’m actually appearing today before the National Anti-Corruption Commission inquiry, parliamentary inquiry. So I’ll sort of have similar things to say to them. Where things are at the moment is that the Government has not committed to establishing a whistleblower Protection Commissioner or authority. That was in the Helen Haines and Greens cross bench National Anti-Corruption Commission Bill. It’s not in the current Government’s view, but on the other hand, the Government has said that it’s not discarding the idea altogether, it’s just focusing on the NAC first. Now I disagree with that as I’m about to tell the parliamentary inquiry. But I think the Government’s position is it’s going to consider it next year. So the Government’s committed to reforming the Public Interest Disclosure Act, the PID act for public servants. And that’s going to take place next year. At the moment there’s going to be at least two layers to that. There’s a layer which is implementing the Moss Review, which was a review in 2016. That’s now quite outdated given that the Corporations Act protections came in in 2019. So there’s I guess actually there’s really this three layers of law reform. There’s what Moss said there, sort of what has happened in the Corporations Act in bringing them up to the same level. And then there’s a third question of, well, should we go even further? You know, there’s been more developments overseas in Europe, for example. There’s issues that have already come out in the Corporations Act. There’s a statutory review built into the Corporations Act. So I think we’re going to see a lot of law reform in this space in the years to come. And that’s going to begin next year with the PID act. But there’s this wider structural question of do they establish this whistleblower protection authority or commissioner? They’re on the fence at the moment. The Human Rights Law Centre and groups we work with are very pro the establishment of such a body.I think it would give practical force to these laws. It would help companies and help departments and agencies use these laws in an effective way. It would bring guidance and oversight and best practice and then practical support for whistleblowers. So very pro establishment of such a body and we’ll sort of have to wait and see.

Nathan Luker: [00:32:08] And it’s been ignored for years. Quite frankly, more has to be done to protect whistleblowers and who knows where it would have left Richard and others in the situation they find themselves in.

Kieran Pender: [00:32:19] Yeah, I think that’s a great point, that this was first recommended by a Senate inquiry in 1994. It was then recommended again unanimously from a bipartisan joint parliamentary inquiry in 2017. Labor took it to the 2019 election. It was in those NAC bills moved by the cross bench in 2018 and 2020. So, you know, this is an idea whose time has come. It would, Australia was once at the forefront of whistleblower protections. South Australia and Queensland enacted some of the first ever whistleblowing laws, second to only the United States in the early 1990s. Now we’ve slid backwards. The corporations reforms were a significant step forward, but compared to other jurisdictions that are really at the forefront now, mainly the US and the EU, Australia is continuing to slide backwards. This would put us at the forefront once again. There’s a similar body in the Netherlands. There’s talk about a whistleblowing office in the UK. They’re sort of different regulators with their own in-house whistleblowing teams in the US. This would be a landmark transformative change for whistleblower protections in Australia and it’s really past time the Government committed to it.

Nathan Luker: [00:33:34] Well, Kieran, thanks for sharing your perspective before your session today. Hopefully Australia can see a safer world in the future where we can speak up safely and without fear of reprisal. We have one last question for you, Kieran. Thanks so much for your time. We ask all of our guests to complete the sentence. Great cultures rely on…

Kieran Pender: [00:33:57] Great cultures rely on leadership, but to me, leadership is something that everyone in an organisation practices. Of course, the tone is set from the top, but every single member of the organisation influences the culture. And that’s why it’s so important that all of these initiatives are not just top down, but actually a bottom up and side to side. We need everyone in an organisation, investing in a culture, investing in a speak up culture, and that although leadership is important from the top, that is ultimately something that everyone needs to contribute to. And so organisations need to ensure the whole organisation is involved.

Nathan Luker: [00:34:38] Very well said, Kieran. Thanks for spending time with us. We really appreciate it.

Kieran Pender: [00:34:42] Pleasure. 

Nathan Luker: [00:34:43] And all the very best. Speak again soon.

Kieran Pender: [00:34:46] Thanks very much.

Nathan Luker: [00:34:52] Thanks for listening to Rely ON. You can access the show notes from this episode. Download resources and listen to other episodes at relyplatform.com. If you enjoyed the episode, we welcome you to submit a review or send an email to hello@relyplatform.com.

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Empowering a Safer & Healthier Workplace: A Partnership for ongoing Psychosocial Wellbeing

A new industry partnership between Rely and Flinders University considers how to best help people feel they can safely disclose traumatic events such as discrimination, bullying and harassment in a compassionate way
Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace

Intelligent case management to better manage Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace (Data Insights from SafeWork Australia)

Mental health conditions account for an increasing proportion of serious workers compensation claims and has significantly increased over the past 5 years.
Insights from the Expert Review Panel into Aviation Safety at Boeing

When employees fear speaking up, disasters happen

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