Whistle blowers should take personal protection into their own hands because the law may not be able to help, according to a prominent legal academic.
Professor of Governance at Victoria Law School Anona Armstrong said personal protection was crucial for whistleblowers because legal protection had major defects.
"Firstly, legal protection is much more effective in political and semi-political spheres than it is in the corporate sphere," she said. "Secondly, legal redress is simply beyond the financial power of most individuals."
Professor Armstrong pointed to claims of a 'dirt file' on Health Services Union whistleblower Kathy Jackson - who triggered Fair Work Australia's investigation into MP Craig Thompson – to highlight the potential risks.
"It is important to know exactly what you are doing before getting in too deep as the risks can be high and the consequences severe," Professor Armstrong said.
She recommended the following considerations for your personal protection if thinking about whistle blowing:
- Is it really a genuine case or could have you misconstrued it?
- Have you tried to solve it internally first?
- Is there an outside organisation you can turn to for advice?
- Have you spoken to your lawyer?
- Have you spoken to your family – you will need them more than ever. Both income and money reserves need to be considered.
- Photocopy all relevant documents before blowing the whistle – it may be difficult to gain access afterwards.
- Make colleagues who pledge support do so in written, signed and witnessed statements so they won't retract under pressure.
- Blow the whistle in a courteous and reasonable manner.
Available for interview:
Professor Anona Armstrong, Professor of Governance
Sir Zelman Cowen Centre
Victoria Law School, Victoria University
(03) 9919 6155; 0429 056 524; [email protected]
Michael Quin, Research Writer
Public Affairs Unit, Victoria University
(03) 9919 9491; 0431 815 409; [email protected]