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Whistle blowing and the Public Service Act five years on. Lynelle Briggs Public Service Commissioner. A Values-based APS. The APS Values: provide the philosophical underpinning for the APS

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Whistle blowing and the Public Service Act five years on

Lynelle Briggs

Public Service Commissioner

a values based aps
A Values-based APS

The APS Values:

  • provide the philosophical underpinning for the APS
  • reflect public expectations of the relationship between public servants and the Government, the Parliament and the Australian community
  • articulate the culture and operating ethos of the APS
  • support and inform the Commissioner's Directions
aps code of conduct
APS Code of Conduct
  • sets out the standard of personal behaviour required of all APS employees and agency heads.

APS employees must:

  • at all times behave in a way that upholds the APS Values and the integrity and good reputation of the APS.
  • behave with honesty and integrity in the course of employment
  • treat everyone with respect and courtesy and without harassment in the course of employment.
education on values and code
Education on Values and Code
  • APS Values and Code of Conduct in Practice: A Guide to Official Conduct For APS Employees and Agency Heads
      • guidance on whistle blower provisions (ch.15)
      • guidance on disclosure of information (ch.3)
      • guidance on public comment (ch.3)
      • guidance on employees as citizens (ch.13)
  • Embedding the APS Values
      • management guide aimed at senior employees
  • Foundations of Governance
      • agency head responsibilities and obligations

all available on APS Commission website at

public service act 1999
Public Service Act 1999

Protection for whistle blowers

  • Section 16 of the Public Service Act prohibits victimisation of, or discrimination against, an Australian Public Service employee who reports a breach, or an alleged breach, of the Code of Conduct to an agency head, the Public Service Commissioner or the Merit Protection Commissioner, or a person authorised by them.
internal witnesses in the aps
‘Internal witnesses’ in the APS
  • reports suspected breaches of the APS Code of Conduct under agency’s whistle blower procedures.
  • reports suspected breaches of the Code within agency but outside whistle blower procedures.
  • requests a review of an action that affects them personally
  • reports a matter to an external body (eg police, Ombudsman, or Inspector-General of Security).
  • answers questions or supplies information as part of an internal investigation (eg suspected fraud, security or privacy breaches).
  • gives evidence at a hearing by an external body (eg AIRC, the courts or a Parliamentary Committee.
legal and administrative frameworks
Legal and administrative frameworks
  • Maintaining a Harassment-free Workplace (APS Commission)
  • Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, a Code of Practice for Employees (HREOC)
  • Review of action processes
    • Part 5 of Public Service Regulations; processes consistent with use of alternative dispute resolution and conciliation
  • Agency procedures for determining breaches of Code of Conduct
  • Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines
legislative protections
Legislative Protections
  • Public Service Act
    • Section 16
    • Code of Conduct
  • Workplace Relations Act (s. 170CK(2)(e), s. 298(k) & s.298(l))
  • Occupational Health & Safety (Commonwealth Employees) Act (s.60, s.64, s.76)
  • Racial Discrimination Act (s.27)
  • Sex Discrimination Act (s.94)
  • Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission Act (s. 26)
  • Age Discrimination Act (s.51)
  • Important not to confuse the issues of:
    • whistle blowing
    • public comment
    • unauthorised disclosure
  • Leaking information is not whistle blowing
    • damages the necessary relationship of trust between the government and the public service
looking ahead
Looking ahead
  • Encourage education on APS Values and Code of Conduct
  • Clarify confusion about APS framework
  • Examine interaction of whistle blowing with other mechanisms for reporting misconduct
  • Low key review of Public Service Act