Australia's first national protection laws for whistleblowers has come into effect.
15 Jan 2014 - 4:26 PM  UPDATED 16 Jan 2014 - 1:55 AM

Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, public officials reporting wrongdoing within Commonwealth public sector agencies will be guaranteed anonymity, and immunity from liability and disciplinary action.

The laws - formulated under the previous Labor government - do not cover politicians or ASIO.

The group Whistleblowers Australia says the laws don't extend existing state protections.

"The role of the investigator and that od protector is rolled into the one body, that's the Ombudsman," says Cynthia Kardell from Whistleblowers Australia.

"The other one is, increasingly whistleblowers aren't coming from the public service. They're coming from all walks of life."

The Chair of Transparency Australia, Professor AJ Brown, advised on the Bill. He also concedes there are significant gaps in the protection offered by the bill.

"It doesn't cover intelligence agencies like ASIO or ASIS. Wrongdoing by politicians if it is reported, won't result in protection under this bill.

The private sector also isn't covered, despite years of lobbying the corporate regulator ASIC.

Whistleblowers Australia says Australia should replicate the US system, where whistleblowers can bring suit under the Federal False Claims Act.

There, the guilty party must compensate the government, and the whistleblower is entitled to a bounty from that.

Related: How to make a public interest disclosure

Read the full Public Interest Disclosure Act below.

Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013