INDEPENDENT NEWS

Protected Disclosures Bill in the House

Published: Wed 15 Mar 2000 03:42 PM
The Government will strengthen legislation protecting workers who disclose information on serious wrongdoings in their workplace to include the private sector.
State Services Minister Trevor Mallard said that a Supplementary Order Paper to the Protected Disclosures Bill would be introduced to Parliament next week. It would extend the bill's coverage to the private sector and would be more closely in line with the intent of the original bill and the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill introduced by Labour MP Phil Goff.
"The previous Government gutted the original bill during the select committee process," Trevor Mallard said.
"National never wanted to address this issue, but when Phil Goff's bill was drawn from the member's bill ballot they realised that public demand for such legislation was high and they would be heavily criticised if they voted against it.
"Their response was to introduce the Protected Disclosures Bill, which originally covered the private sector. However, I understand Ministers at the time instructed Government members of the Justice and Law Reform Select Committee to severely water it down by removing the private sector from the bill.
"About half the submissions at the time requested this. However, many of them were 'generic' type submissions lead by the Business Roundtable. An analysis of the submissions showed powerful support for inclusion of the private sector and the new Government is following their arguments.
"We believe that both public and private sector workers have a right to certain protection.
Currently there is no protection available to an employee who discloses, in good faith and in an appropriate manner, a matter of serious wrongdoing. Nor is there any general statutory immunity from civil or criminal liability.
"It is important that employees of all organisations – private or public – are in a position to make protected disclosures about serious wrongdoing in or by their organisations. To not make this protection available to employees of private companies is to condone wrongdoing in the private sector and could put the public at risk.
"For example, serious medical malpractice is a proper matter of public interest whether it occurs in a public hospital or a private hospital. Hazardous dumping of noxious waste is a public safety issue no matter who does the dumping."
Trevor Mallard also paid tribute to Wanganui nurse Neil Pugmire who inspired the original whistleblowers bill.
"He felt so strongly about the fact that certain individuals who were a danger to the community were being discharged from hospital that he told one of my colleagues. He paid a high price for that disclosure. Two young boys who one of the patients tried to strangle and rape paid an even higher price," Trevor Mallard said.
ends

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