Treasury Laws Amendment (Whistleblowers) Bill 2017 - Exposure Draft

Closed 3 Nov 2017

Opened 23 Oct 2017

Overview

This consultation seeks stakeholder views on the exposure draft of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Whistleblowers) Bill 2017 (the Bill) and supporting explanatory material.

The Bill creates a single whistleblower protection regime in the Corporations Act 2001 (Corporations Act), to cover the corporate, financial and credit sectors, and creates a new whistleblower protection regime in the taxation law, to protect those who expose tax misconduct.

The proposed legislation delivers on the Government’s commitment under the Open Government National Action Plan and tax integrity measure announced in the 2016 Budget.

The reforms to the Corporations Act include:

  • expanding the protections to a broader class of people;
  • expanding the types of disclosures that will be protected under the framework;
  • allowing disclosures to parliamentarians and the media in certain circumstances, if preconditions are satisfied;
  • imposing new stringent obligations to maintain the confidentiality of a whistleblower’s identity;
  • making it significantly easier for a whistleblower to bring a claim for compensation where he or she has been victimised;
  • creating a new civil penalty offence so that law enforcement agencies will be able to take action against companies where the civil standard of proof can be met; and
  • requiring all large companies to have a whistleblower policy in place, with penalties for failing to do so. 

The new whistleblower protections in the taxation law are broadly consistent with the enhanced protections under the Corporations Act, and will facilitate disclosures about tax misconduct being made directly to the ATO.  

Background

  • The Government announced a number of tax integrity measures as part of the Federal Budget in May 2016. It promised as part of this to introduce tax whistleblower legislation which would be operational by 1 July 2018.
  • In December 2016 the Government committed under the Open Government National Action plan to harmonise corporate sector whistleblower provisions with those existing in the public sector and to introduce legislation for this by December 2017 together with tax whistleblower provisions.
  • The Government commenced consultation on a paper in December 2016 on corporate and tax whistleblowing, which concluded in February 2017. 34 submissions were received (available now at the Treasury website). It consulted also with regulatory and enforcement agencies. It began developing legislation in June to meet the December 2017 timeframe that the Government had committed to for corporate and tax law reform. The design process took into consideration these submissions and consultations as well as those received by the Committee referred to below and the evidence that was before the Committee on corporate sector concerns.
  • Separately, in late 2016, the Government agreed to establish the above-mentioned parliamentary Committee.  The Committee held public hearings in the first half of 2017. In addition, it received 75 submissions (including some which were common to the Treasury consultation process). These are available at the Australian Parliament website. The Committee issued its report on 13 September 2017.
  • On 28 September 2017 the Government established an expert advisory panel on whistleblower protections. The panel will review and comment on the tax and corporate whistleblower draft legislation. It will also review and comment upon recommendations for legislative reforms to enhance whistleblower protections in the private, not-for-profit and public sectors made by the Committee. 

Comments on the draft legislation

Stakeholders are invited to comment on the draft legislation and supporting explanatory material. Submissions for this consultation will close on 3 November 2017.

Documents

Audiences

  • Businesses
  • Finance/Banking sector
  • Financial advisers
  • Individuals
  • Industry bodies
  • Insurers
  • Law professionals
  • Superannuation professionals
  • Tax professionals

Interests

  • All interests