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Common law – common mistakes? Protecting whistleblowers in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom

William De Maria (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 1 December 2006

4617

Abstract

Purpose

The paper aims to respond conceptually, rather then empirically, to policy ignorance. It seeks to examine certain aspects of whistleblower protection offered in the common law countries of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper provides a four‐country comparison of whistleblower protection laws against 13 characteristics gleaned from the international literature on whistleblower legislation. This analysis is informed by considerations of the common law and corruption and critical state theory.

Findings

The conclusion reached is that the whistleblower laws established in the common law countries of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK variously contain serious structural deficiencies, particularly with respect to the scope of protection and the construction of corruption. The concern is that whistleblowers seeking protection under these inadequate programs will be hurt and there will be negligible impact on the profile of corruption.

Research limitations/implications

The major weakness in the analysis was the subjective and arbitrary way the disclosure management characteristics were selected to assess the disclosure laws of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. Future research should seek more objective indictors of performance as well as a consideration of exterior indicators such as the impact of disclosure policies on corruption.

Practical implications

If the findings here are validated in subsequent research, then governments should urgently review their current whistleblower policies in order to improve disclosure protection.

Originality/value

A conceptual framework informed by considerations of corruption, the common law and critical state theory was used to put whistleblower protection in a wider context where state interest competed with the needs of whistleblowers.

Keywords

Citation

De Maria, W. (2006), "Common law – common mistakes? Protecting whistleblowers in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 19 No. 7, pp. 643-658. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550610704671

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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