by leave—I move Greens amendments (2), (3), (6) to (10) and (12) to (14) on sheet 1870 revised:
(2) Schedule 1, page 30 (before line 21), before item 51, insert:
50B Subsection 26(1) (table item 4, column 1)
Omit "Legal practitioner", substitute "Professional assistance".
50C Subsection 26(1) (cell at table item 4, column 2)
Repeal the cell, substitute:
(3) Schedule 1, item 63, page 36 (line 9), omit "legal practitioner", substitute "professional assistance".
(6) Schedule 2, item 3, page 51 (line 2), omit "legal practitioner", substitute "professional assistance".
(7) Schedule 2, item 3, page 52 (line 31), omit "legal practitioner", substitute "professional assistance".
(8) Schedule 2, item 6, page 53 (line 23), omit "legal practitioner", substitute "professional assistance".
(9) Schedule 2, item 6, page 53 (after line 24), after the definition of legal practitioner disclosure in section 8, insert:
union has the same meaning as in the Workplac__e Health and Safety Act 2011.
(10) Schedule 2, page 53 (after line 28), after item 8, insert:
8A Section 25
(12) Schedule 2, page 54 (after line 21), after item 16, insert:
16A Section 67 (heading)
Omit "legal practitioners", substitute "professional assistance".
(13) Schedule 2, item 17, page 55 (lines 1 to 4), omit the item, substitute:
17 Paragraph 67(1)(a)
Omit "public interest disclosure covered by item 4 of the table in subsection 26(1) (a legal practitioner disclosure)", substitute "professional assistance disclosure".
17A Paragraph 67(2)(a)
Omit "legal practitioner" (wherever occurring), substitute "professional assistance".
(14) Schedule 4, item 8, page 66 (lines 12 to 15), omit the item, substitute:
8 Section 7 (paragraph beginning "The protec tion provisions")
Omit "or professional assistance", substitute ", professional assistance or NACC disclosure".
One of the core recommendations of the Moss review was to expand the category of people to whom whistleblowers can go to seek professional assistance, to expand it unambiguously to the legal profession and appropriate legal advice and also to empower whistleblowers to make their disclosures appropriately and with the appropriate advice to comply with the PID Act and any other requirements. These amendments seek to expand the category of persons to whom whistleblowers can go to for professional assistance from not just lawyers, and in some cases government approved lawyers, to Australian legal practitioners or their relevant union representative.
As we know, many public servants who are members of the CPSU or another union go to their union to seek advice on how they can step through a really hard workplace issue. You can't think of a harder workplace issue in many instances than trying to work out how to do a PID Act disclosure properly. The Greens firmly believe that appropriately skilled union officials should be available to whistleblowers to help them step through the complexity of making a PID Act disclosure.
We should remember as well that union officials often also have an understanding of how the animal works, how the agency works, what the power structures are within the agency and what the likely consequences and, altogether too likely, adverse consequences are for somebody when they make a disclosure. Being monstered by the HR department and being excluded at the next meeting—all those adverse consequences—so often happen to whistleblowers and are intimately tied to their making of a PID Act disclosure. Of course whistleblowers should be able to go to their union representative and seek assistance in pulling together the PID Act disclosure and also in meeting the sometimes quite nasty, targeted management actions against them once they've made the disclosure.
This is consistent with the Moss report. I would have thought that this is consistent with any party that believes that unions have a very valid and important role in supporting their members when they're in a dispute with the government of the day, with their employer. It is for those reasons I've moved these amendments.
The government will be opposing these amendments. The government believes it is important that whistleblowers can access all necessary forms of support throughout the disclosure process; however, the government does not support these amendments at this point in time. Further consideration is needed to determine how disclosures to union representatives, among other forms of professional assistance, can be appropriately provided for in the act. The government has committed to considering the outstanding recommendations of the Moss review, including improved access to professional assistance, as part of the second stage of broader reforms. We will ensure that this issue is considered closely as part of those broader reforms. Again, I'm happy to work with Senator Shoebridge in that further work.
I thank the minister for that explanation. I simply say that it's a sad day when the Labor Party won't allow a whistleblower to talk with their union rep.
The question is that amendments (2), (3), (6) to (10) and (12) to (14) on sheet 1870 revised be agreed to.
Date and time: 10:54 AM on 2023-06-15
Senator Pocock's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 11
Total number of "no" votes: 23
Total number of abstentions: 42
Related bill: Public Interest Disclosure Amendment (Review) Bill 2022
Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au