01 September 2023
The recent review conducted by The Honourable Alan Wilson KC has recommended that sweeping changes be made to Queensland’s public sector whistleblowing legislation, including calls for a more robust, brand new Act to be introduced to replace the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (PID Act).
The purpose of the PID Act, which has been in force since 1 January 2011, is to prevent, expose and combat wrongdoing and corruption in Queensland’s public sector. The PID Act encourages whistleblowers to make confidential disclosures of wrongdoing by offering them legal protections and by obliging public sector agencies to take action on receipt of a public interest disclosure (PID).
The PID Act also supports Australia’s commitment to its international obligation in accordance with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other G20 protocols.
In 2017, a review conducted by the Office of the Queensland Ombudsman (Ombudsman) resulted in 40 recommendations, including a suggestion to amend the PID Act to reflect current best practice (see the report, Review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010: A review pursuant to s.62 of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010).
In June 2022, Professor Peter Coaldrake issued a report, Let the sunshine in: Review of culture and accountability in the Queensland public sector (Coaldrake Review), which recommended the Queensland Government proceed with a review of PID legislation as a matter of urgency, and at least within the next six months.
In late 2022, the Queensland Government appointed Mr Wilson to conduct a further review of the PID Act.
Broadly, the review aimed to assess whether the protections afforded to public interest disclosures under the PID Act remained effective and appropriate. It also sought to ensure that Queensland’s whistleblowing laws reflected international best practice and recent developments in other jurisdictions, including the introduction of new whistleblower legislation in New Zealand last year.
Following broad consultation with stakeholders and consideration of more than 60 submissions, the Final report – Review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Report) was publicly released on 8 August 2023 and presents 107 recommendations to the Queensland Government.
One of the key recommendations is to repeal the PID Act and replace with a new Act that is drafted in a simple and user-friendly manner so that its concepts can be grasped by a broader audience. In particular, the Report advocates for the Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act 2022 (NZ) as an example of whistleblowing legislation that provides greater clarity to all readers.
The Report also proposes that the new Act should provide a higher threshold for assessing a PID. Relevantly, the Report recommends that the definition be expanded beyond the current types of conduct caught by the legislation to include serious or systemic wrongdoing which threatens the public sector or public interest.
Mr Wilson theorises in the Report that the effectiveness of the Queensland whistleblower regime is directly linked to the role played by the Ombudsman. The Report therefore recommends that additional funding be provided to the Ombudsman so that the scheme could be “much more effectively overseen … if it was properly resourced”.
The release of the Report is timely given the recent amendments to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (Cth), which strengthens protections for disclosures, introduces protections for witnesses, and enforces ongoing training and education to public officials.
The Queensland Government’s consideration of the 107 recommendations outlined in the Report is highly anticipated.
Public sector agencies should stay abreast of developments in this area and ensure their whistleblower practices are compliant with any legal changes to adequately protect whistleblowers and avoid penalties for non-compliance.
We will continue to share further developments relating to this review in future editions of our Queensland Government Bulletin. If you have any questions about your whistleblower obligations or need assistance, please get in touch with our government team at the end of this bulletin.
Platform full of praise for upcoming Queensland property law overhaul
The Property Law Bill is expected to come before Parliament again, with proposed changes requiring sellers to disclose detailed particulars about their property including structural defects to legal limitations and planning-related complications. LocalAgentFinder has weighed in, said the introduction of full disclosure in property transactions will bring real change to the industry (18 August 2023). Read more here.
Community to have say on Mackay SDA
Community members can have their say on a proposed State Development Area (SDA) for Mackay. The proposed SDA will focus on developing new industries critical to the global shift to net zero, such as biomanufacturing, renewable energy and green jet fuel. Public consultation will run until 15 September (16 August 2023). Read more here.
Local government expenditure caps begin on 14 August 2023
New caps for local government electoral spending are now in effect. The new caps will apply to anyone planning to participate in the upcoming local government elections including councillors, candidates, groups of candidates, registered political parties and third parties (14 August 2023). Read more here.
Palaszczuk Government accepts Legal Affairs and Safety Committee recommendations
The Queensland Government has released its response to a recent Report from the Legal Affairs and Safety Committee. The Inquiry into support provided to victims of crime Report included 18 recommendations, all of which the government has supported, or supported in principle (09 August 2023). Read the response here.
Comprehensive review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act released
The Honourable has Alan Wilson KC delivered the final report on the review the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010. The Report detailed 107 recommendations, which have been broadly supported by the Queensland Government to renew the state’s whistleblowing framework to ensure wrongdoing in the public sector can be effectively exposed and remedied (8 August 2023). Read more here.
Queensland unit owners fear body corporate law reform could force them from homes in property hotspots
Draft legislation expected to be introduced to the Queensland parliament within months will allow body corporate schemes of unit complexes to be terminated with the support of 75 per cent of title holders. The reforms to Queensland’s body corporate laws were announced in response to a 2022 Queensland Government housing summit aimed at solving the state's ongoing housing shortage. (14 July 2023). Read more here.
How to get the energy transition back on track
According to the Grattan Institute, Australia’s energy system is at a critical junction. Continuation of current trends will mean missing our 2030 emissions reduction targets, risking electricity system reliability, and failing to deliver the federal government’s election promise of cheaper electricity. Change is urgently required on all three fronts. Read more here.
Unemployment rate rises to 3.7 per cent in July
The unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points to 3.7 per cent in July, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The fall in employment follows an average monthly increase of around 42,000 people during the first half of this year. Employment is still around 387,000 people higher than last July. Read more here.
Improving asset management in local government
With Queensland councils owning and operating approximately $114 billion worth of infrastructure assets, it is pivotal they manage them effectively. The Queensland Audit Office is conducting an ongoing examination of the sector’s progress, with the latest report surveying councils on the maturity of their approaches to asset management compared to international better practice. Read more here.
Farm sector debt reaches $109.9 billion
The latest agricultural lending statistics provided by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority shows an increase in aggregate lending to the farm sector of 9 per cent in 2021–22. Data shows that much of this increase in borrowing has been for on-farm investment, particularly land purchases, with debt finance of critical importance, both to fund new investment and manage variability in revenue and profit. Read the Trends in farm debt: Agricultural lending data 2021-22 report here.
Appointments to the High Court of Australia
The High Court of Australia has made two new appointments. Justice Stephen Gageler AC has been appointed the fourteenth Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, commencing on 6 November. Justice Robert Beech-Jones has also been appointed, commencing 6 November 2023. Read more here.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal Bulletin Issue No. 16/2023
The AAT Bulletin is a fortnightly publication containing information about recently published decisions and appeals against decisions in the AAT’s General, Freedom of Information, National Disability Insurance Scheme, Security, Small Business Taxation, Taxation & Commercial and Veterans’ Appeals Divisions. Read more here.
Update to the Practice Direction: Giving Documents or Things to the AAT
The Practice Direction specifies ways in which a document or thing may be lodged with, or given to, the AAT in accordance with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975, the Migration Act 1958 and the Migration Regulations 1994. Read more here.
Countdown to election begins
The countdown to next month’s Queensland Law Society (QLS) Council Election has begun. Nominations open on 11 September and only full members on the Roll of Electors on that date are eligible to stand for election, vote and nominate candidates. To be included on the roll, please ensure you are a full member before 8 September and your details are up to date. Read more here.
Agenda Australia Pty Ltd v Queensland Building and Construction Commission  QCAT 308
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – APPLICATION FOR AN EXTENSION OF TIME – whether decision to issue direction to rectify no longer reviewable due to s 86F of the Queensland Building and Construction Commission Act 1991 (Qld) – where s 86F does not apply – where time to file an application to review has passed – whether time to file an application to review should be extended under s 61 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld).
Etheridge Shire Council  QCAT 263
HUMAN RIGHTS – DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION – GENERALLY – SPECIAL MEASURES – where the Applicant seeks an exemption from the operation of specified provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) in order to operate an independent living facility for people 65 and older – reserved for the over 65s – whether grounds for exemption – whether they are special measures – where the Queensland Human Rights Commissioner opposes the application – whether the exemption should be granted
Brisbane City Council v Leahy  QCA 133
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW – JUDICIAL REVIEW – GROUNDS OF REVIEW – PROCEDURAL FAIRNESS – EXISTENCE OF OBLIGATION – RIGHTS AND INTERESTS AFFECTED BY THE DECISION – where the appellant Council approved the exhibition of an electronic advertising structure (“the sign”) – where the sign was erected on land adjacent to the boundary of the first respondent’s property – where the Council did not afford the first respondent procedural fairness prior to approving the exhibition of the sign
Valkyrie and Hill v Shelton  QCAT 302
HUMAN RIGHTS – DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION – GROUNDS OF DISCRIMINATION – OTHER MATTERS – where complaints of vilification – where the respondent published a blog and other posts critical of the complainants’ drag queen performance for children in a library – whether the publications incited hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of the complainants on the ground of their sexuality or gender identity – where the complainants made their complaints as individuals but relied on vilification of various groups of persons of which they were members
Crowley v Jackson  QCAT 227
HUMAN RIGHTS – DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION – INDIRECT DISCRIMINATION – where the respondent operates a café – where public health directives were in place during COVID-19 – where the applicant was refused service for refusing to wear a mask – where the applicant claimed a medical exemption from wearing a mask – where the applicant says imposing a term of wearing a face mask as a condition of service amounts to indirect discrimination
Winkworth v Commissioner of State Revenue  QCAT 282
GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW – FIRST HOME OWNER GRANT – Appeal of decision of Commissioner of State Revenue to affirm original decision to refuse the applicant the HomeBuilder Grant – where application for grant denied on the basis that the transaction for which the grant was sought was not an eligible home builder transaction because the construction commencement date was earlier than the contract commencement date – where respondent refused grant because application did not comply with Administrative Direction
Appeals (Directive 04/23) 1 March 2023
Appeals Guide 1 March 2023
Discipline (Directive 05/23) 1 March 2023
Review of non-permanent employment (Directive 02/23) 1 March 2023
Review of acting or secondment at higher classification level (Directive 03/23) 1 March 2023
Suspension (Directive 06/23) 1 March 2023
Recruitment and selection (Directive 07/23) 26 June 2023
Suitability for employment (Directive 08/23) 26 June 2023
Fixed term contracts of employment – executive employees (Directive 11/23) 1 July 2023
Senior executive service – employment conditions (Directive 09/23) 1 July 2023
Senior officer – employment conditions (Directive 10/23) 1 July 2023
Queensland Public Service Customer Complaint Management Guideline 27 July 2023
Preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment (Directive 12/23) 28 July 2023
Domestic Travelling and Relieving Expenses (Directive 13/23) 31 July 2023
Subordinate legislation notified
Child Protection Regulation 2023
Duties Regulation 2023
Waste Reduction and Recycling (Expansion of Container Refund Scheme) Amendment Regulation 2023
Water Plan (Burdekin Basin) (Postponement of Expiry) Notice 2023
Hospital and Health Boards Regulation 2023
Petroleum and Gas (Safety) and Other Legislation Amendment Regulation 2023
Rural and Regional Adjustment (Business Energy Saving and Transformation Rebate Scheme) Amendment Regulation 2023
State Development and Public Works Organisation (Particular Works for Borumba Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Project Exploratory Works) Amendment Regulation 2023
Building and Other Legislation (Public Cyclone Shelters) Amendment Regulation 2023
Criminal Practice Amendment Rule 2023
Domestic and Family Violence Protection Amendment Rule 2023
Economic Development (Sunshine Coast Airport PDA) Amendment Regulation 2023
Local Government (Moreton Bay City Council) and Other Legislation Amendment Regulation 2023
Planning (Assessment Fees and Other Matters) Amendment Regulation 2023
Proclamation No. 1 – Domestic and Family Violence Protection (Combating Coercive Control) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2023 (commencing remaining provisions)
Public Trustee (Interest Rate) Amendment Regulation (No. 6) 2023
Racing Regulation 2023
The information in this bulletin is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this bulletin is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.