The changes follow a particularly damning period for Australia’s financial services industry, which has been hammered by a Royal Commission into banking, superannuation and financial services.
The commission highlighted poor practices across all areas; with clients disadvantaged, overcharged and ignored.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) welcomed the passing of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whilsteblower Protections) Bill 2018, which was approved on 19 February.
What are the reforms?
Collectively, they will:
Broaden the whistleblower definition to include both current and former employees, officers and contractors, as well as their spouses and dependents, and anonymous disclosures.
Extend the protections to whistleblower reports that allege misconduct or an improper state of affairs or circumstances about any matter covered by financial sector laws, as well as all commonwealth offences punishable by imprisonment of 12 months or more.
Create civil penalty provisions, in addition to the existing criminal offences, for causing detriment to (or victimising) a whistleblower and for breaches of confidentiality.
Provide protections for disclosures to journalists and parliamentarians in certain circumstances.
Provide whistleblowers with easier access to compensation and other remedies if they suffer loss.
Require all public companies, large proprietary companies and corporate trustees of registrable superannuation entities to have a whistleblower policy.
Asic executive director Warren Day commented: “These reforms will help Asic to perform our important regulatory role by encouraging people who have observed misconduct to come forward.
“They complement the measures we have put in place since 2014 to improve our processes for assessing whistleblower reports and communicating with whistleblowers during our inquiries.”