According to a report by The Guardian, the Australian government has spent nearly $3 million on three ongoing court cases against four whistleblowers. For whistleblower advocates, the Australian government’s costly pursuit of these whistleblowers, who exposed government wrongdoing, underscores the need for stronger whistleblower laws, including whistleblower reward laws.
Australian Senator Rex Patrick has denounced these taxpayer-funded pursuits. He referred to the cases against the whistleblowers as a “war” meant to “destroy their lives.” He added that the cases “totally undermine confidence in Australia’s whistleblower laws and policies. Whistleblowers should be treated as heroes, not as criminals.”
The cases are against whistleblowers Richard Boyle, David McBride, Bernard Collaery, and Witness K. By far, the costliest case is against Collaery and Witness K, who exposed an espionage operation by the Australian government against Timor-Leste during oil and gas negotiations in 2004. So far, the Australian government has spent $2.47 million on the Collaery and Witness K case.
Senator Patrick and other whistleblower advocates have long called for Australia to establish whistleblower rewards programs similar to those in the U.S. In an article published last year, Patrick explained that “providing a bounty to whistleblowers…is about making sure that every CEO and every secretary of a department knows that there are people who are financially motivated to call out misconduct and that will stop it happening in the first place.” In the U.S., a number of different types of whistleblowers, including False Claims Act whistleblowers, SEC whistleblowers, and IRS whistleblowers, are entitled to monetary awards. For example, through the SEC Whistleblower Program, individuals who provide the agency with original information that leads to a successful enforcement action are entitled to an award of 10-30% of funds recouped by the government.
Other countries have implemented successful whistleblower reward programs. Last month, the Deputy Director of National Tax Service of South Korea explained South Korea’s tax whistleblower rewards program in an interview at the Ninth Annual Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival.