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Public Interest Disclosure Scheme
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) came into effect on 15 January 2014, replacing previous whistleblower provisions and policies. The aim of the PID Act is to provide a scheme for the investigation of allegations of wrongdoing and maladministration in the Commonwealth public sector, and to provide protections for both current and former public officials who make certain types of 'disclosures'.
What type of information is ‘disclosable conduct’?
'Disclosable conduct' under the PID Act, covers any conduct by the Agency, or by any public official in connection with their position, or by a contracted service provider to the Agency, that the discloser believes:
- contravenes a law (this can include contraventions of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Public Service Act 1999, or Fair Work Act 2009)
- perverts the course of justice
- is corrupt
- is based on improper motives
- is unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or negligent
- is an abuse of public trust
- involves fabrication, falsification, plagiarism or deception relating to scientific research, or other misconduct in relation to scientific research, analysis or advice
- results in wastage in public money or public property
- unreasonably endangers health and safety, or the environment.
Who can make a disclosure?
A current or former ‘public official’ can disclose information that they believe on reasonable grounds tends to show disclosable conduct. This broad term includes Australian Government public servants and parliamentary service employees, members of the Defence force, staff and directors of Commonwealth companies, statutory office holders and staff of Commonwealth contracted service providers.
Disclosures may be made anonymously.
How do I make a disclosure to the Agency?
Current ARPANSA employees can make a disclosure to:
- an ARPANSA Authorised Officer (see below), or
- their supervisor (who will pass the matter on to an Authorised Officer), or
- the Principal Officer (the CEO or his delegate).
Other public officials should contact one of the Agency’s Authorised Officers (see below) in the first instance.
Where the disclosure meets the internal disclosure requirements of the PID Act, the Authorised Officer will allocate the disclosure to the Principal Officer. The Principal Officer must investigate the disclosure within 90 days, unless the PID Act allows otherwise.
Under the PID Act, each agency must appoint Authorised Officers to handle public interest disclosures. ARPANSA has appointed Authorised Officers in both Melbourne and Sydney, although neither is restricted to dealing with disclosures related to their location and either can be contacted by anyone wishing to make a disclosure. To contact an Authorised Officer email PIDACT@arpansa.gov.au or telephone 03 9433 2469.
What protection do I have?
The PID Act protects public officials and former public officials from adverse consequences of disclosing information that, in the public interest, should be disclosed. Protections under the PID Act include immunity from civil, criminal or administrative liability; protection of the discloser's identity, and protection from reprisal. These protections are available even if the discloser's report of wrongdoing turns out to be incorrect or unable to be substantiated, provided the discloser reasonably believes at the time of the disclosure, that the information tends to show disclosable conduct.
Anyone seeking further information or considering making a disclosure should contact an ARPANSA Authorised Officer.
For further information on the operation of the PID Scheme more generally, please see the information provided by the Commonwealth Ombudsman at www.pid.ombudsman.gov.au.