M2011-17 Public Interest Disclosures Policies and other Changes

Status: current

The Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (Act) sets out a comprehensive framework for protecting public officials who disclose wrongdoing in accordance with the Act.

New legislative changes to the Act will take effect on 1 November 2011.

One of the changes may mean that agencies’ public interest disclosures policies need to be updated. From 1 November 2011, every public interest disclosures policy must require the agency to acknowledge receipt of a disclosure, and send a copy of its policy, to a person who makes a public interest disclosure, within 45 days of the person making the disclosure.

Heads of Government agencies must ensure that their agencies’ policies reflect the changes taking effect on 1 November 2011.

Additional obligations will also be imposed on heads of Government agencies from 1 November 2011. The changes to the Act which affect agencies and take effect on 1 November 2011 are summarised in the attachment to this memorandum.

Heads of Government agencies should ensure that this memorandum is brought to the attention of the officers responsible for their agencies’ public interest disclosures policies.

Ministers should ensure that this memorandum is brought to the attention of all Government agencies within their portfolios.

Barry O’Farrell MP
Premier

Issued:  Department of Premier and Cabinet
Contact:  Catherine Chang, Acting Senior Principal Legal Officer, Legal Branch
Email:  catherine.chang@dpc.nsw.gov.au
Telephone: (02) 9228 5545  
Date: 7 October 2011

This Memorandum has not superseded any other Memoranda and should be read in conjunction with M2011-12 “Strengthening Whistleblower Protections”.

Changes to the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994

New legislative changes to the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (Act) will take effect on 1 November 2011.

These changes apply to all public authorities which include:

  • State Government agencies;
  • local councils;
  • state-owned corporations;
  • universities; and
  • Parliamentary Departments.

These changes include:

  • Every public interest disclosures policy must require the public authority to acknowledge receipt of a disclosure, and send a copy of its policy, to a person who makes a public interest disclosure, within 45 days of the person making the disclosure.
  • The head of a public authority must ensure that the authority has a public interest disclosures policy, that the policy designates at least one officer of the authority as being responsible for receiving disclosures on behalf of the authority, that staff are aware of the policy and the protections of the Act and that the authority complies with the policy and the Act.
  • Clarification regarding to whom a public authority and an investigating authority must refer evidence or a brief of evidence relating to an offence of taking detrimental action against a whistleblower.
  • Public officials will be able to disclose a wider range of wrongdoing directly to the Chief Executive, Local Government and receive the protections of the Act. In addition to public interest disclosures about serious and substantial waste of local government money, the Chief Executive, Local Government will be able to receive disclosures about corrupt conduct, maladministration, breaches of pecuniary interest obligations under the Local Government Act 1993 and a failure to exercise functions properly in accordance with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 by councils.
  • Disclosures made in accordance with the Act will be known as public interest disclosures (formerly protected disclosures).