Mr PASIN (Barker) (18:14): I couldn’t begin without reflecting briefly on the contribution from the member for Moreton. Although he’s leaving the chamber, I wish he wouldn’t. He stands there and accuses this government of having done nothing in relation to the behaviour and the cultural attitudes of the big banks in Australia over the last 600 days. I reject that assertion and I remind him there were six long years during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years where zero was done, absolutely zilch—niente, if I was speaking in my mother and father’s native tongue. Those who come into this place and seek to play the spin, quite frankly, need to remember there was a period that proceeded the good work this government is doing. It’s too cute by half to come in here and suggest that everything was coming up roses until we were elected in 2013 and of course the assertion from them that nothing occurred over that period is wrong in its origination but also wrong when you consider the six years that preceded it—enough of that.
I’m here to talk about whistleblowers and enhancing protections for them. Ultimately, this comes down to integrity. We need to ensure the strongest possible protections for individuals who are across information because of the nature of their work, the nature of their participation in an industry, and in some cases the nature of their profession. The ability to provide that information in the context and in a safe environment is critical. Without that information, authorities, law enforcement organisations, individuals with regulatory responsibility are often blind to behaviour which in very many cases is either corrupt, criminal or unconscionable. So I’m here this evening supporting this bill, to speak to strengthening whistleblower protections. In particular, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, you know that this bill speaks directly to specific protections for tax whistleblowers and obviously it’s a key plank in ensuring we strengthen the integrity of our Australian taxation system.
We’ve been working hard as a government to ensure that tax, where appropriate, is paid. That is not always an easy task. There are platoons of lawyers engaged often to facilitate arrangements that are lawful and that is one thing. But when individuals, companies, partnerships operate in a way that’s unlawful then we need to act on the behaviour. I have to say, our government has a great track record when it comes to international corporates in particular, with some $6 billion of additional revenue arriving on an annual basis at Treasury because of changes in the law we have made. This is another tranche of the changes, one that says to whistleblowers: if you are aware of information that will assist us in ensuring that the law of the land as it relates to taxation is applied then you will be appropriately protected and that should be the case. This is not to look at these provisions in detail but to say that, as a government ,we understand the importance of how serious this behaviour can be. We understand the depth and the desire for protection and we are committed to it.
But this bill goes further. It’s not just in relation to behaviour around individuals, companies, partnerships, et cetera and their tax liabilities. It also relates to protections for whistleblowers within the public sector. Wrongdoing in a public sector context could involve can a contravention of law—corruption, maladministration, abuse of public trust, deception in respect of scientific work, a flat-out waste of public money, unreasonable danger to health or safety, danger in the environment, abuse of one’s position or grounds for disciplinary action.