Blowing whistle might be profitable

By Bill Rowlings, CEO of Civil Liberties Australia

sml-sq-qui-tam-payouts-usAustralians might soon be paid money for blowing the whistle on crooks ripping off the government and Australian taxpayers.

In a move long promoted by Civil Liberties Australia, crossbench senators engineered recently a deal that could see ‘Qui Tam’ law passed in Australia in 2017.

Qui Tam is basically a legal action which encourages whistleblowing around government waste: people are rewarded with a share of the money saved, or the fines imposed, when they highlight corrupt or fraudulent behaviour by suppliers.

Writing in Fairfax online, Matthew Knott and Georgia Wilkins said the government had agreed to introduce stronger whistleblower protections for both public and private sector workers in a deal with Senate crossbenchers to secure support for one of its double dissolution trigger bills.

A parliamentary inquiry, due to report in the middle of 2017, will examine whether the bounty system that operates in the USA should be introduced in Australia. In 2016, the US government paid almost $5 million to a former BHP Billiton employee for raising concerns about alleged corruption at the mining giant.

In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission can reward whistleblowers by giving them a share of a fine extracted from a company, with payouts often reaching many millions of dollars.

Instead of being rewarded, private sector whistleblowers in Australia currently have few protections and take large risks in speaking out. They are usually ostracised at least, and frequently lose their jobs and their careers.

See also:

Qui Tam: In common law, a writ of qui tam is a writ whereby a private individual who assists a prosecution can receive all or part of any penalty imposed. Its name is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, meaning “[he] who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.” – Wikipedia

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