The Queensland Government has announced a review into the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld) (the PID Act).
The PID Act review was recommended by the Coaldrake Review into the culture and accountability in the Queensland public sector. Former Supreme Court Judge and President of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the Honourable Alan Wilson KC, will conduct the review.
The review is the latest Coaldrake Review recommendation taken up by the Government, following recent amendments to Queensland’s Integrity Act 2009, Auditor-General Act 2009 and Ombudsman Act 2001.
The PID Act is Queensland primary whistleblower protection legislation which aims to ensure public interest disclosures about wrongdoing (PIDs) in the public sector are dealt with appropriately. The Act has not been substantively amended since its 2010 inception.
What elements of the public sector integrity framework are under review?
Professor Coaldrake intimated that the review should consider the whistleblowing regime under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and new whistleblower legislation in New Zealand. That legislation includes an expanded definition of the types of disclosable matters, clearer sanctions against retaliation and reprisal, and an expanded role for the Ombudsman.
Professor Coaldrake also said the review should give “due consideration” to the proposals made by the Queensland Ombudsman’s 2017 Review of the PID Act, and best practice developments since then.
The 40 recommendations from the 2017 Review, which will likely form a framework for this new review, sought to address several technical, operational and implementation issues in Queensland’s public sector integrity framework, including:
- a sharper focus on wrongdoing;
- stronger but streamlined requirements for managing PIDs;
- more effective support for disclosers and practical mechanisms to address reprisal; and
- a more rigorous oversight role.
Significantly, public agencies identified that the PID Act’s complex drafting and requirements for assessing and investigating PIDs were areas of concern. Further, it was said that the implications of confidentiality provisions and a lack of focus on subject officers were key problems.
Consultation starts in January
Though details of the review are yet to be confirmed, it is expected to be completed by 30 April 2023, with public consultation commencing in January, following the release of an issues paper in January. Submissions in response to the issues paper are expected to be open for approximately 4 weeks.
In anticipation of this, agencies should consider whether they have concerns or comments about how the PID Act is currently operating in practice. If you need to refresh your memory, 23 submissions made to the Ombudsman in 2016 are published online.