All current and former public officials seeking to speak up about wrongdoing or maladministration in the Commonwealth public sector may do so under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act).
All Defence personnel are encouraged to speak up about suspected wrongdoing or maladministration, as you are one of the most important and accurate sources of information to address problems in public administration.
Suspected wrongdoing, identified as 'disclosable conduct' under the PID Act, is broadly categorised to include, but is not limited to, conduct by an agency or public official that: contravenes a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory; relates to corruption; is an abuse of public trust or office; is deception relating to scientific research; results in wastage of public money or property; unreasonably results in danger, or increases the risk of danger, to the health or safety of one or more persons; and, if proven, gives reasonable grounds for disciplinary action against a public official.
Under the PID Act, a 'public official' includes current or former Australian Defence Force members; Australian Public Service employees; contracted service providers; and statutory officers. Information disclosed by current and former public officials alleging wrongdoing and maladministration will be called a 'public interest disclosure'. There is provision within the Scheme to deem an individual to be a public official if there is information of public importance that should be disclosed.
The PID Act:
- promotes integrity and accountability in the Commonwealth public sector;
- encourages public officials to disclose wrongdoing and maladministration;
- provides protection from any adverse consequences of making a disclosure; and
- ensures disclosures are properly managed and investigated by agencies.
Consistent with the PID Act, the following personnel within Defence will have mandatory responsibilities with respect to public interest disclosures:
- The Secretary, as principal officer in Defence. Pursuant to the PID Act, the Secretary has delegated his powers and functions to the Assistant Secretary Fraud Control who is responsible for managing and operating the Scheme. These responsibilities include – development of PID Act policy, procedures and processes in Defence, development of PID Act training packages, fact sheets and guides and the oversight of the management of all public interest disclosures.
- Supervisors, managers and commanders are responsible for receiving disclosures of information from any Defence personnel they supervise, manage or command and reporting this information to any 'authorised officer' appointed in Defence.
- Authorised officers are appointed by the Secretary and are responsible for receiving, assessing and allocating public interest disclosures to Defence.
- All Defence personnel have a responsibility to use their best endeavours to encourage, facilitate, protect and support any public official making a public interest disclosure.
The PID Act provides broad protections for public officials making, or intending to make, a public interest disclosure. The protections include ensuring the identity of the discloser remains confidential; providing immunity to a discloser from criminal and civil liability (including disciplinary action) for making the disclosure; and creating criminal offences for:
- the unlawful disclosure or use of a discloser's identifying information; and
- taking or threatening to take a reprisal against a public official making, or intending to make a public interest disclosure.
The PID Act also provides public officials with legal remedies to address reprisal action taken against them as a result of making a public interest disclosure.
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