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Whistleblower protections in corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors

Whistleblower protections

Australia needs to strengthen the legislative protections for whistleblowers in order to address the many inconsistencies and weaknesses evident in current whistleblower regimes. Pursuing a longer-term goal of adopting one simple, uniform whistleblower regime across the Federation.


Partner, Forensic

KPMG Australia


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Rain on an umbrella

However, legal reform is only one piece of the puzzle. Legislative change must be supported by better whistleblower programs within our Australian organisations, and widespread cultural change around the stigma that is often associated with whistleblowing.

We need to help Australian organisations to help themselves, and in doing so, we must promote a culture that supports speaking up and does not tolerate retaliation or reprisals against whistleblowers.

Whistleblowers should be encouraged to report matters internally in the first instance, if they feel comfortable doing so. External reporting channels should be made available for use in circumstances where internal channels have failed, or the whistleblower fears retribution.

These are some insights and recommendation drawn from KPMG’s experience operating a confidential whistleblower hotline (KPMG FairCall). Since its establishment in 1998, the KPMG FairCall service has handled over a thousand confidential whistleblower matters pertaining to fraud or other types of misconduct spanning a broad range of private and public sector organisations.

KPMG shared these insights by making a submission to the inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Corporations and Financial Services.

Our key recommendations are as follows:

  1. Protection should be extended to a wider group of individuals (particularly individuals in current or former employment and contracting roles).
  2. The subject matter of disclosures should be extended to cover a broad range of reportable wrongdoing that materially harms or threatens the public interest.
  3. The ‘good faith’ requirement should be replaced with an objective test requiring the disclosure to be made ‘on reasonable grounds’.
  4. Anonymous disclosures should be eligible for protection.
  5. A ‘tiered’ disclosure system should be adopted enabling information to be reported to a number of contact points through internal and external reporting channels.
  6. The whistleblower should be encouraged to follow an appropriate escalation process.
  7. The circumstances under which whistleblower information may be disseminated should be clearly articulated in the legislation for all parties.
  8. Further consideration should be given to whether the regimes should explicitly require organisations to take reasonable steps to ensure that no person under their control engages in victimisation of whistleblowers, and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for any such victimisation.
  9. Compensation mechanisms should be clearly defined.
  10. Organisations should be encouraged to put in place a comprehensive whistleblower program (commensurate with their size and nature of operations).
  11. We recommend that ‘better practice’ guidance is provided to organisations by an appropriate regulatory authority.
  12. A dedicated whistleblower agency should in the longer term be established.

Talk to us about your whistleblower protections program today.

© 2019 KPMG, an Australian partnership and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.

KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”) is a Swiss entity.  Member firms of the KPMG network of independent firms are affiliated with KPMG International. KPMG International provides no client services. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm.

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