Whistleblowers in the private sector could win guarantees of anonymity and immunity from court action if a new law proposed by a minor party is passed.
The Greens announced on Tuesday it would try to strengthen national whistleblower laws in response to “recent events in the higher education sector”, a reference to the Freya Newman case.
Ms Newman was found guilty of illegally accessing the school records of the Prime Minister’s youngest daughter and given a two-year good behaviour bond in November.
The former librarian at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, where Frances Abbott studied on a secret $60,000 scholarship, was not protected by current whistleblower laws because the institute was not a public institution.
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said in a statement her party hoped to amend the law to afford equal protections to whistleblowers in the private sector.
“Private education companies receive billions of dollars in public funding, and if the Federal Government has its way they would receive hundreds of millions more, yet they are exempt from current whistle-blower protections,” Senator Rhiannon said.
“Australia’s whistle-blower protection laws have been criticised from a number of quarters for being too narrow and not affording protection to enough whistle-blowers for some time.
A recent report by the G20 ranked Australia behind Britain and the United States of America for whistleblower protections.
Private sector whistleblowers are currently immune from prosecution only if they report alleged wrongdoing to corporate watchdog ASIC or certain staff within their company without leaking the allegations to the media.
“[T]he Greens will move to ensure that whistle-blowers in private education companies are awarded the same protections as those in the public sector as a first step in enhancing our national whistle-blower regime,” Senator Rhiannon said.