02 June 2009

Williams invents excuse for stalling whistleblower law

In a scrum with reporters last week, Premier Danny Williams said he has instructed government officials to gather evidence on experience with whistleblower legislation because there  is “not much precedent” around the world for whistleblower legislation.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The United States Congress enacted the false claims act of 1863 to protect the public from unscrupulous manufacturers who substituted sawdust for gunpowder in Union Army contracts during the Civil War. The legislation,  updated in 1986, allowed citizens to file claims against manufacturers and awarded the citizens – effectively whistleblowers – a portion of any subsequent award.

There are 18 other American federal statutes that contain whistleblower protection.

A 2002 statute, enacted in the wake of Enron, extended protection to private sector employees who blow the whistle on wrongdoing.

The US federal government has had a whistleblower statute to protect federal employees since 1989. The earliest such law for federal employees was enacted in 1912.

Most American states have protection for employees who disclose unethical or illegal acts by employers.

The United Kingdom has had whistleblower protection since 1998.

Various Australian states and the Australian Capital territory have whistleblower legislation.  The earliest dates from 1988.

The Government of Canada has had a whistleblower protection law since 2005 and in 2006, Manitoba passed a public interest disclosure statute.

Williams promised whistleblower legislation during the last general election, in 2007, saying:

The very first session of the House that we have, that's something we'll have a look at. As a matter of fact, there'd be no reason why we wouldn't get it on.