This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Corruption engaged in by the Prime Minister / Prime Minister’s Department'.

A guide to making a disclosure under
the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013

»  Why should I speak up? 
»  What is a public interest disclosure? 
»  Who can make a public interest disclosure? 
»  What can I disclose? 
»  What is not disclosable conduct? 
»  Who can I make a public interest disclosure to? 
– Your own agency – an internal disclosure 
– Other government agencies – an internal disclosure 
– Other people – external and emergency disclosures 
– Lawyers 
»  What happens if I disclose the information outside these circumstances? 
»  What should I do before making a disclosure? 
»  Can I discuss the matter with a lawyer? 
»  Can I disclose anonymously? 
»  Do I have to disclose in writing? 
»  What information should I provide? 
»  Will my name be kept confidential? 
»  What are my obligations? 
»  Dealing with an internal disclosure 
»  Allocation and investigation 
»  After the investigation 
»  How long will the process take? 
»  Will I be kept informed? 
»  What happens if the disclosure is substantiated? 
»  What happens if the disclosure is not substantiated? 
»  What if I am not satisfied with the agency’s action?  
»  How am I protected? 
– Liability 
– Reprisal 
»  Where can I get support? 

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (PID Act) facilitates disclosure and investigation of wrongdoing 
across the Commonwealth public sector. This guide provides an overview of how the public interest 
disclosure scheme works and your rights and obligations if you are considering making a disclosure. 
The PID Act is not intended to replace existing processes for dealing with workplace grievances and 
misconduct, such as suspected breaches of the APS Code of Conduct, bullying and harassment, but to 
supplement them. Nor does it replace professional standards, integrity or mandatory reporting regimes. 
In preparing this guide, my office has had regard to the content of the guidelines of the NSW 
Ombudsman and the guide issued by the Queensland Ombudsman, Crime and Misconduct Commission 
and Queensland Public Service Commission, Thinking about blowing the whistle? (2011). I wish to thank 
the authors of those guidelines and guide. 
Colin Neave 
Commonwealth Ombudsman 
authorised officer 
agency head or officer appointed by the agency head 
disclosable conduct 
wrongdoing you can report under the PID Act 
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security 
PID Act 
Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 
PID rules 
rules made by the minister under the PID Act 
principal officer 
agency head  

the public interest 
disclosure scheme 
Staff who are prepared to speak up about 
public sector misconduct, wastage of public 
funds, suspected illegal activity or danger to 
health, safety or the environment are often 
the most important and accurate sources of 
information to identify and address problems 
in administration. 
How, where and what you disclose will 
determine whether your disclosure is protected 
under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 
(PID Act), as outlined in this guide. The PID 
Act safeguards your confidentiality, protects 
you from reprisals and requires agencies to 
take action. 
If you make a disclosure, you may help to: 
»   stop the wrongdoing or bring it to the 
attention of people who can stop it 
»   prevent disadvantage to other 
people from the wrongdoing 
»   prevent danger to health and safety 
or damage to the environment 
»   create an opportunity to implement better 
work procedures to prevent wrongdoing 
or maladministration in the future 
»   bring to account the people 
responsible for wrongdoing. 
You will also know that you did what you could 
to improve the situation. 
Even if you decide that you do not wish to make 
a public interest disclosure, you should consider 
whether there is some other action you should 
take to speak up about workplace matters 
that concern you. There are other avenues 
for advice and action, including in relation to 
harassment and other breaches of the APS Code 
of Conduct, and your agency should ensure that 
you are supported. 

Essentially it is a disclosure by a current or former public official of suspected wrongdoing in the 
Commonwealth public sector. The emphasis of the scheme is on disclosures being made and 
investigated within government, but in limited circumstances a disclosure outside government is 
permitted. The elements of making a disclosure under the PID Act are summarised below, with 
more detail on the following pages. 
Includes public servants and parliamentary 
Disclosure by a current or 
service employees, service providers under a 
former public official 
Commonwealth contract, statutory office holders, 
staff of Commonwealth companies etc 
Conduct engaged in by an agency, public 
Of information that tends 
official or contracted service provider 
to show, or that the 
Types include illegal conduct, corruption, 
public official reasonably 
maladministration, abuse of public trust, 
believes tends to show 
deception relating to scientific research, wastage 
disclosable conduct 
of public money, unreasonable danger to health 
or safety, and danger to the environment 
» A supervisor or authorised officer 
Made to an appropriate 
» The Commonwealth Ombudsman 
person within government 
» The IGIS (if an intelligence matter) 
» A prescribed investigative agency 
O R  
Made to anybody 
If the disclosure does not include intelligence 
(other than a foreign official) 
or sensitive law enforcement information 
under limited circumstances 
A N D  
an investigation was conducted 
and the
and the public official reasonably 
disclosure is 
believes the investigation or the 
not contrary 
agency response was inadequate, 
to the public 
or the investigation was not 
completed within time 
O R  
the public official believes on reasonable 
grounds that there is a substantial and imminent 
danger to health, safety or the environment 

»   constitutes maladministration, including 
conduct that is based on improper motives or is 
unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or negligent 
You must be a current or former ‘public official’, 
as defined in s 69 of the PID Act, to make a 
»   is an abuse of public trust 
public interest disclosure. Essentially this means 
»   involves fabrication, falsification, plagiarism 
a Commonwealth public servant, member of 
or deception relating to scientific research, 
the Defence Force, appointee of the Australian 
or other misconduct in relation to 
Federal Police, Parliamentary Service employee, 
scientific research, analysis or advice 
director or staff member of a Commonwealth 
»   results in wastage of public 
company, statutory office holder or other person 
money or public property 
who exercises powers under a Commonwealth 
»   unreasonably endangers health and safety 
law. Organisations or individuals who provide 
services under a Commonwealth contract and 
»   endangers the environment 
their officers or employees are also included. 
»   is prescribed by the PID rules (s 29(1)). 
An authorised officer can also deem an individual 
An agency is broadly defined. It means: 
to be a public official if they reasonably believe 
the individual has information about wrongdoing 
»   a department 
and proposes to make a disclosure (s 70). 
»   an executive agency under the Public Service 
Examples where an authorised officer might 
Act 1999 (that is, an agency established by the 
consider this appropriate include where a former 
Governor-General rather than by legislation) 
volunteer with an agency or someone who has 
received funding from the Australian Government 
»   a statutory agency under the 
Public Service Act 1999 
has ‘inside information’ about the agency’s 
»   a Commonwealth authority (within 
the meaning of the Commonwealth 
If you are not sure whether you are a public 
Authorities and Companies Act 1997
official for the purposes of the Act, talk to an 
or a Commonwealth company 
authorised officer. These are people in each 
»   the Australian Federal Police 
agency who are appointed by the agency head 
to take disclosures. 
»   intelligence and security agencies: the 
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, 
Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Office of 
National Assessments, Defence Imagery and 
Geospatial Organisation, Defence Intelligence 
You can disclose information that you believe, on 
Organisation and Defence Signals Directorate 
reasonable grounds, tends to show ‘disclosable 
»   the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority 
conduct’. Disclosable conduct is conduct by: 
»   the High Court, Federal Court and any 
»   an agency (explained in more detail below) 
other court created by parliament 
»   a public official in connection 
the Office of Official Secretary 
with their position 
to the Governor-General 
»   a contracted Commonwealth service 
»   the Commonwealth Ombudsman 
provider in connection with entering 
»   the Inspector-General of Intelligence 
into or giving effect to the contract 
and Security (IGIS) 
if that conduct: 
»   a prescribed entity established 
by a Commonwealth law 
»   contravenes a Commonwealth, 
»   a prescribed person holding an office 
state or territory law 
established by a Commonwealth law (s 71). 
»   in a foreign country, contravenes 
a foreign law that applies to the 
The PID Act extends to Australia’s external 
agency, official or service provider 
territories (s 4) and to matters outside Australia 
»   perverts the course of justice 
that involve disclosable conduct (s 5). 
»   is corrupt 

It is not disclosable conduct just because you 
You must make your disclosure to an appropriate 
disagree with: 
person in order to gain the protections available 
»   a government policy or proposed policy 
under the PID Act. There is a range of options 
inside and outside your agency. The PID Act 
»   action or proposed action by a minister, the 
focuses on the reporting and investigating of 
Speaker of the House of Representatives 
wrongdoing within government, but allows 
or the President of the Senate 
for reporting outside government in specified 
»   expenditure or proposed expenditure 
limited circumstances. 
related to such policy or action (s 31). 
Disclosable conduct also does not include judicial 
Your own agency – an internal disclosure 
conduct, that is, the conduct of judicial officers, 
You can report suspected wrongdoing either 
the judicial functions of court staff, tribunal 
to your current supervisor or manager, or an 
staff or tribunal members, or any other conduct 
authorised officer of your agency or the agency 
related to a court or tribunal unless it is of an 
to which you last belonged. Authorised officers 
administrative nature and does not relate to 
are the agency head and officers they appoint 
matters before the court or tribunal (s 32). 
under the PID Act (s 36). 
Disclosable conduct also does not include the 
Each agency must have procedures for dealing 
proper performance of the functions and proper 
with public interest disclosures, and you should 
exercise of the powers of an intelligence agency 
consult these. Your agency may set out in its 
or its officials (s 33). 
procedures how a disclosure should be made. 
The conduct of members of parliament is not 
Making a disclosure internally gives the agency 
covered by the PID Act. 
the chance to investigate the matter and remove 
A disclosure made before the commencement of 
any danger or correct any wrong practices as 
the PID Act on 15 January 2014 is not covered by 
quickly as possible. 
the Act. However, if you make a disclosure after 
Supervisors can be a strong source of support 
that date, it can relate to conduct that occurred 
if you are considering making a disclosure. 
at any time before then. In other words, it is the 
However, there may be reasons to choose to 
date you make the disclosure, not the date of 
speak to someone else – for example, you 
the conduct, that determines whether the PID 
may suspect your supervisor knows about the 
Act applies. 
wrongdoing and has allowed it to continue, your 
A report of wrongdoing in an Australian Public 
supervisor may not have an appropriate security 
Service agency made before 15 January 2014 
clearance, or you may feel more comfortable 
may be covered by the whistleblower provisions 
talking to an authorised officer. 
of the Public Service Act 1999. You should 
consult (see Circular 2013/08 
Other government agencies – 
APS whistleblowing scheme and public 
an internal disclosure 
interest disclosures). 
If you have information about suspected 
wrongdoing in another public sector agency, you 
can make a disclosure to an authorised officer 
in that agency. This is also known as an ‘internal 
If the agency has ceased to exist since the 
suspected wrongdoing took place, the 
appropriate agency is generally the agency that 
has taken over its functions (s 35(3)). If you are in 
any doubt, seek advice from an authorised officer. 

If the matter involves an intelligence agency 
External disclosure 
or intelligence-related information, you have 
If you made an internal disclosure under the PID 
two options: you can make a disclosure to the 
Act, you may later make an ‘external disclosure’ 
intelligence agency, or to an authorised officer 
to any person if: 
of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and 
Security (IGIS) if you believe on reasonable 
»   the internal investigation under the PID Act 
grounds that it would be appropriate for the 
was not completed within 90 days or within 
IGIS to investigate (see 
a timeframe approved by the Ombudsman 
or IGIS (an investigation is completed when 
For matters that do not concern an intelligence 
the report of investigation is finalised), or 
agency or intelligence related information, you 
»   you believe on reasonable grounds 
can also make a disclosure to an authorised 
that the investigation under the 
officer of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, 
PID Act was inadequate, or 
if you believe on reasonable grounds that 
it would be appropriate for the Ombudsman 
»   you believe on reasonable grounds that 
to investigate (ss 26(1), 34). 
the agency took inadequate action after 
the investigation, whether under the 
The PID Act also allows for agencies with 
PID Act or other legislation such as the 
separate investigative powers under other laws 
Ombudsman Act, was completed, 
to be prescribed under PID rules as ‘investigative 
agencies’. If one of those investigative agencies has 
the power to investigate the type of wrongdoing 
»   it is not on balance contrary to 
you are reporting, you may make your disclosure 
the public interest for an external 
directly to them (ss 26(1), 34). 
disclosure to be made (s 26). 
The PID Act extends to individuals and 
You should note that the first two grounds (the 
entities that provide goods or services under a 
time limit was exceeded or the investigation was 
contract with the Commonwealth, concerning 
inadequate) only apply to investigations under 
wrongdoing related to entering into or giving 
the PID Act. If the investigation was carried out by 
effect to the contract. If you are concerned 
the Ombudsman, IGIS or an investigative agency 
about their wrongdoing, you should report those 
under another law, those grounds are not available 
concerns to the agency that is the principal 
reasons for making an external disclosure. 
beneficiary of the contract. 
If you make an external disclosure, you 
must ensure that you do not disclose more 
Other people – external and 
information than is reasonably necessary to 
emergency disclosures 
identify the wrongdoing. You must not disclose 
intelligence information, including sensitive 
You can make a public interest disclosure 
law enforcement information. Sensitive law 
to other people, including people outside 
enforcement information is information 
government, in limited circumstances set out 
whose disclosure is reasonably likely to 
below. In addition to the conditions outlined 
prejudice Australia’s law enforcement interests, 
below, two restrictions apply to such disclosures: 
including interests in avoiding disruption to 
»   The matter must not include intelligence 
law enforcement and criminal investigation, 
information or sensitive law enforcement 
protecting informants and witnesses, and 
information (as defined in s 41) or 
protecting the technologies and methods 
concern an intelligence agency. 
used in dealing with criminal intelligence and 
investigation (see the full definition of this 
»   You may not make a disclosure 
to a foreign public official. 
and ‘intelligence information’ in s 41). 

The Act specifies various factors that must 
Emergency disclosure 
be taken into account in determining that a 
If you believe on reasonable grounds that the 
disclosure is not contrary to the public interest 
information you have concerns a substantial 
(s 26(3)). These are: 
and imminent danger to the health or safety of 
»   whether the disclosure would promote 
one or more people or to the environment, you 
the integrity and accountability of 
may make an emergency disclosure to anyone, 
the Commonwealth public sector 
provided you meet certain requirements: 
»   the extent to which the disclosure 
»   The extent of the information you disclose 
would expose a failure to 
must be only what is necessary to alert the 
address serious wrongdoing 
recipient of the substantial and imminent 
danger. The danger would need to be 
»   the extent to which it would help to 
protect the person who made the 
substantial and imminent in the sense that 
disclosure from adverse consequences 
the physical impact on safety or to the 
environment was imminent, and would not 
»   the principle that disclosures should be 
include matters that are not disclosable 
properly investigated and dealt with 
conduct under the PID Act (such as 
»   the nature and seriousness of 
disagreement with government policy). 
the disclosable conduct 
»   If you have not previously made an 
»   any risk that the disclosure could damage the 
internal disclosure about the matter, or 
security or defence of the Commonwealth, 
if you have done so and the investigation 
or its relations with a state or territory, 
is not yet completed, there must be 
Norfolk Island or another country 
exceptional circumstances justifying 
your action. This might include, for 
»   the principle that Cabinet information 
should remain confidential unless it is 
example, if investigation was taking too 
already lawfully publicly available 
long to complete having regard to the 
risk to a person’s health and safety. 
»   if any information was communicated in 
confidence by a foreign government or 
»   As noted above, you must not disclose 
authority or an international organisation, 
intelligence information, including 
the principle that such information should 
sensitive law enforcement information. 
remain confidential unless consent is given 
»   any risk that disclosure could prejudice 
the proper administration of justice 
You may make a disclosure to a lawyer for the 
»   the principle that legal professional 
purposes of seeking legal advice or professional 
privilege should be maintained 
assistance about a public interest disclosure you 
have made or propose to make, but you must 
»   any other relevant matter. 
not disclose intelligence information, including 
sensitive law enforcement information (s 26). 
If the information you wish to disclose is not 
intelligence information (including sensitive 
law enforcement information) but you know, 
or should reasonably have known, that it is 
nonetheless covered by a national security 
or other protective security classification, 
the lawyer must hold an appropriate security 
clearance. You should ask the lawyer about this 
before you disclose such information. 
It is an offence for the lawyer to disclose the 
information or use it for any purpose other than 
providing you with advice or assistance (s 67). 

Making a public 
interest disclosure 
You must use one of the proper avenues to 
gain the protections available under the PID 
Act. The protections include confidentiality 
and immunity from criminal and civil liability 
or disciplinary action. 
The PID Act requires each public sector agency 
This means that you will not receive these 
to develop procedures for facilitating and dealing 
protections if you give the information to 
with public interest disclosures relating to the 
someone outside government like a journalist 
agency (s 59). You should make your disclosure 
or union representative, unless the conditions 
in accordance with your agency’s procedures, 
for an external or emergency disclosure are met. 
which should be published on the intranet and 
You may be in breach of your duty to maintain 
agency website. 
appropriate confidentiality in relation to official 
information you have gained in the course of 
Before you decide to go ahead, you may want 
your work, or be subject to other civil, criminal 
to find out more about what you can expect 
or disciplinary action. 
from the process, what protection and support 
are available to you and whether there may be 
The limitations on protection under the PID 
more appropriate ways to address the matters 
Act are there to encourage people to make a 
that concern you. You can seek advice from 
disclosure to the people and agencies that have 
your agency. 
the responsibility to take action and have proper 
processes in place to manage an investigation 
If you believe it is appropriate to make a public 
and remedy problems. 
interest disclosure to another agency such as 
the Ombudsman or IGIS, you can contact them 
for similar information. 
You can disclose information to a lawyer for the 
purpose of obtaining legal advice or professional 
assistance about a public interest disclosure 
you have made or propose to make, provided 
the information does not include intelligence 
information, including sensitive law enforcement 
information (s 26). The lawyer may also need 
to have an appropriate security clearance 
(see p. 6 for further details). 

It is the agency’s responsibility to keep a record 
of your disclosure. It is also a good idea to keep 
Yes. You do not have to identify yourself when 
your own records of what you disclosed and 
making a public interest disclosure (s 28(2)). 
when, and any responses you received from the 
You may want to initially approach the agency 
agency. This may assist you later in establishing 
anonymously to discuss your concerns about 
that you are entitled to protection under the 
PID Act, if that becomes necessary. 
You should be aware, however, that anonymous 
disclosures, like anonymous complaints, are 
often more difficult to investigate. 
Agencies will not be able to seek further 
information from you or advise you of any 
No particular information is specified. The 
action they take if you remain anonymous and 
onus is not on you to prove the disclosure; you 
uncontactable. They also have the discretion not 
only need to put the agency on notice that you 
to investigate if you do not provide your name 
honestly believe on reasonable grounds that 
and contact details or are unable to give them 
there has been wrongdoing. 
further information or assistance if they need it 
(s 48(1)(i)). 
Depending on your circumstances, you should 
think about covering as many of these matters 
If you do identify yourself to an authorised 
as possible in your disclosure so as to help the 
officer when making your public interest 
agency to determine how to proceed: 
disclosure, the agency must make every effort 
»   your name and contact details 
to keep your identity confidential (ss 20, 21). 
»   the nature of the wrongdoing 
If you plan to make a disclosure anonymously, 
»   who you think committed the wrongdoing 
ask yourself: 
»   when and where the wrongdoing occurred 
»   Have I included all the information I believe 
»   relevant events surrounding the issue 
is relevant so that the authorised officer 
would have reasonable grounds to suspect 
»   if you did anything in response 
the disclosable conduct has occurred? 
to the wrongdoing 
»   others who know about the wrongdoing 
»   Can the information I have provided 
be understood without clarification 
and have allowed it to continue 
or further explanation from me? 
»   whether you believe your information is a 
public interest disclosure under the PID Act 
»   Is my identity likely to be apparent 
when this information is received 
(you do not have to describe it that way for it 
or an investigation is begun? 
to be treated as a public interest disclosure, 
but it will assist the agency if you do) 
»   Should I provide an anonymous 
contact method, such as an email 
»   if you are concerned about possible reprisal 
account that does not identify me? 
as a result of making your disclosure. 
Be clear and factual. Avoid speculation, personal 
attacks and emotive language as they divert 
attention from the real issues. If you have 
information in supporting correspondence or 
No. You may make a disclosure orally or in 
other documents, such as file notes or a diary of 
writing (s 28(1)). You may do this in person, by 
events, you should provide that to the authorised 
telephone, by letter or email, or via the internet 
officer. You can also include the names of 
if the agency has an online form for receiving 
any people who witnessed the conduct or 
disclosures. You should check the agency’s 
who may be able to verify what you are saying. 
procedures, as they may prefer a written 
You should not investigate a matter yourself 
before making the disclosure – you may hinder 
a future investigation if you do. You should 
also be aware that the sooner you raise your 
concerns, the easier it may be for the agency 
to take action. 

Even if the information you provide turns out to 
In such circumstances, the agency may seek your 
be incorrect or unable to be substantiated, your 
consent to provide your identifying information 
disclosure is protected by the PID Act, provided 
to relevant people. You should also recognise 
that you: 
that even if the staff involved in handling your 
»   made the disclosure to your supervisor, an 
disclosure take the utmost care to protect your 
authorised officer, the Ombudsman, the IGIS 
identity, they may not be able to prevent your 
or other prescribed investigative agency 
identity from becoming known. 
»   honestly believe on reasonable 
If it is necessary or highly likely that your identity 
grounds that the information tends 
will be revealed, the agency should discuss this 
to show disclosable conduct. 
with you before proceeding. They may seek your 
consent to disclose your identity, and they should 
take steps to protect you against reprisal (for 
example, by making staff aware that criminal or 
disciplinary action may be initiated if detrimental 
action is threatened or taken against you). 
Agencies will make every reasonable effort 
to protect your identity. 
It is a criminal offence for a public official who 
is involved in handling your disclosure to reveal 
After making a disclosure, you should not 
your identifying information to anyone else 
discuss the details with anyone who does not 
without your consent or use it for another 
need to know. Discussions with them will not 
purpose unless it is for: 
be covered by the protections in the PID Act. 
the purposes of the PID Act 
You should be discreet about the fact that 
an investigation by the 
you have made a public interest disclosure, 
Ombudsman or the IGIS 
the information in your disclosure and any 
another Commonwealth law 
information that would identify someone you 
or prescribed law 
allege has acted wrongly. The investigator must 
make sure that everyone involved is treated 
fairly and impartially. 
»   the information has already lawfully 
been published (s 20). 
You should also be prepared to provide further 
Your identifying information must also not be 
information to help the investigator as the 
disclosed to a court or tribunal except when 
investigation proceeds, as this will often be 
necessary to give effect to the PID Act (s 21). 
required. All public officials must use their best 
endeavours to assist in any investigation (s 61). 
In addition, agencies are bound by obligations 
under the Privacy Act 1988 in relation to storing 
You must not knowingly provide false or 
personal information securely and limiting its use 
misleading information, as your liability for doing 
and disclosure. 
so will not be covered by the protections under 
the PID Act (s 11). 
You should be aware, though, that the protection 
the PID Act provides is not absolute. For 
example, your identity, or information that would 
effectively identify you, may need to be disclosed 
to certain other people if that is necessary: 
»   to investigate the disclosure effectively 
(for example, if the wrongdoing you are 
reporting was directed solely against you), or 
»   to protect you against reprisals (for example, 
if there are concerns that it is impossible for 
you to remain in your current workplace). 

Disclosure to the 
Disclosure to 
Ombudsman, IGIS or 
to supervisor 
authorised offi  cer 
prescribed investigative 
agency if appropriate 
Supervisor passes on 
Authorised offi  cer 
May allocate to 
to authorised officer 
can make inquiries 
appropriate agency 
Conduct investigation 
(can use own 
investigative powers) 
No reasonable basis 
to consider it is an 
internal disclosure 
Decide not to investigate 
Allocate to principal officer 
of own agency and/or other 
Advise discloser 
agency for investigation 
Advise discloser 
Conduct investigation within 
Decide not to investigate 
90 days (Ombudsman/ 
IGIS may extend time) 
Advise Ombudsman/ 
Advise discloser 
Copy of report to discloser 
IGIS with reasons 
with reasons 
Principal officer to take 
appropriate action 

After a disclosure 
is made 
After a public interest disclosure has been 
investigated under the PID Act, the principal 
officer must prepare a report that sets out the 
matters considered, how long the investigation 
took, any findings that were made, any action 
either recommended or taken, any claims or 
The first step is that an authorised officer will 
evidence of detrimental action to you, and the 
examine the information you have supplied and 
agency’s response to those claims (s 51). 
decide whether it is a disclosure covered by the 
PID Act. An authorised officer is the agency head 
Detriment means any disadvantage to you, 
and people they appoint to that role. They may 
including dismissal, injury, discrimination between 
make preliminary inquiries and may ask you for 
you and other employees or alteration of your 
further information. 
position to your disadvantage (s 13(3)). It does 
not include administrative action that is reasonable 
Unless there is no reasonable basis for 
to protect you from detriment (s 13(3)). 
considering the matter to be a public interest 
disclosure, the matter will then be allocated for 
You will be given a copy of the investigative 
investigation. This will normally occur within 
report within a reasonable time (provided 
14 days. The matter may be allocated within the 
that contacting you is reasonably practicable) 
same agency, or to one or more other relevant 
(s 51(4)). Some material may be deleted from 
agencies, including the Ombudsman or IGIS. 
the copy you receive, if it is likely to identify 
If you consent, your name and contact details 
any person, is intelligence information, would 
will be provided to the person receiving the 
be exempt under the Freedom of Information 
Act 1982 or would contravene a publication 
restriction or protective security classification. 
The principal officer (agency head) or their 
delegate must investigate the disclosure, 
If the investigation is conducted under 
unless one of the exemptions in s 48 apply. 
another law by the Ombudsman, IGIS or 
For example, if the matter does not relate to 
investigative agency, you will be informed that 
serious disclosable conduct, or it is already under 
the investigation is complete (s 49(3)). The 
investigation, or your disclosure is frivolous 
information that you can receive about the 
or vexatious. It may also be impracticable to 
outcome will depend on the law under which 
investigate because of the age of the disclosure, 
the investigation was conducted. 
or because you have not disclosed your name 
or contact details or have failed to give the 
investigator the information or assistance they 
If the matter is investigated by the Ombudsman, 
While a straightforward matter may be 
IGIS or a prescribed investigative agency, they 
completed quickly, more complex issues, where 
may use their separate investigative powers 
significant evidence needs to be gathered, may 
rather than conducting the investigation under 
take months to complete. Investigations must be 
the PID Act (s 49). For example, the Ombudsman 
completed (that is, an investigation report must 
has powers to investigate complaints under 
be completed) within 90 days of the date the 
the Ombudsman Act 1976, and may exercise 
matter was allocated for investigation (s 52(1)). 
the discretion not to investigate, or investigate 
further, under that Act. 
However, the Ombudsman, or the IGIS in the 
case of intelligence agencies, may grant one 
More details on the investigation process are 
or more extensions of time. If an extension is 
in the Agency Guide to the Public Interest 
granted, the Ombudsman or the IGIS will inform 
Disclosure Act 2013
you and give you reasons for the extension 
(s 52(5)). The principal officer will also let you 
know about the progress of the investigation 
(s 52(5)). Failing to complete an investigation 
within time does not invalidate the investigation 
(s 52(6)). 

Such information may also be deleted from the 
reasons you are given if an agency decides not 
The agency will notify you at various stages in 
to investigate your disclosure. 
the process, provided they have your contact 
details. You will be advised: 
If the investigation is conducted under other 
when your disclosure is 
legislation, the information you will receive at 
allocated for investigation 
the end of the investigation will depend on 
that legislation. 
if the agency decides to investigate 
if the investigation is under the PID Act, 
It is important to remember that you do not 
the estimated length of the investigation 
‘own’ the public interest disclosure. It is up to 
agencies to determine how best to resolve 
»   if the agency decides not to investigate, 
matters by identifying problems and taking 
the reasons for the decision and any 
corrective action. 
action that might be available to you 
under other Commonwealth laws 
»   if an investigation is conducted under 
the PID Act and an extension of time 
is granted by the Ombudsman or IGIS, 
the progress of the investigation 
What happens at the end of an investigation will 
»   after the investigation report is completed. 
vary with the circumstances. The principal officer 
must take appropriate action in response to 
You may be advised of the allocation decision 
recommendations and other matters contained 
and the decision not to investigate in the same 
in the investigation report. Actions might include: 
document (for example, if the two decisions 
are made very close together). 
»   commencing Code of Conduct 
proceedings under the Public Service 
The agency should keep you up to date with 
Act 1999 or other disciplinary process 
reasonable information on what is being done 
»   mediation or conciliation of 
in response to your disclosure. If you have not 
a workplace conflict 
heard anything within a reasonable period, ask 
the agency for an update. You may not be given 
»   an internal audit or other review of an issue 
certain information if, for example, it would 
or the operations of a particular unit 
jeopardise an ongoing investigation. 
»   implementing or changing policies, 
procedures or practices 
After an investigation under the PID Act is 
»   referral of the matter to the police or 
completed, you will be given a copy of the 
another body that can take further action. 
investigation report (s 51). The version you 
receive may have some information deleted 
if including it would cause the document: 
»   to be exempt under the Freedom 
of Information Act 1982 (exempt 
material includes commercially valuable 
information, material obtained in 
confidence, Cabinet information, personal 
information whose disclosure would be 
unreasonable and contrary to the public 
interest, and information that could 
prejudice an investigation or affect the 
effectiveness of agency audit procedures) 
to have a national security or 
protective security classification, or 
to contain intelligence information, including 
sensitive law enforcement information. 

You may also have the right to release the 
information publicly if doing so is not contrary 
to the public interest and it does not include 
There may be a number of reasons why your 
intelligence or sensitive law enforcement 
public interest disclosure is not substantiated, 
information (see p. 5–6 for the conditions 
including insufficient evidence to find on the 
for making external disclosures). 
balance of probabilities that any disclosable 
conduct has occurred. It does not mean that 
making a disclosure was not worthwhile. The 
information you provide may be useful in making 
your agency aware of possible gaps in its policies 
If you make a public interest disclosure under 
or procedures, or lead to consideration of how 
the Act (even if an investigation subsequently 
to prevent similar issues in the future. Keeping 
determines that there was no wrongdoing), 
silent about problems can lead to bigger issues 
you are protected in two ways. 
in the longer term. 
If you do not know what happened after you made 
your disclosure or the reasons you were given are 
You cannot be subject to any civil, criminal or 
not clear to you, you are entitled to ask. Talk to the 
administrative liability, including disciplinary 
authorised officer who handled your disclosure. 
action, for making a disclosure in accordance 
Regardless of the outcome, you will still be 
with the PID Act, and no contractual or other 
protected under the Act for making a public 
remedy can be enforced against you on the basis 
interest disclosure. Your agency should continue 
of your disclosure. This means, for example, that 
to support you for having done the right thing 
you would not be committing an offence against 
by bringing the matter to their attention. 
the official secrets provisions of the Crimes 
Act 1914, or be liable for defamation. Nor can a 
contract to which you are a party be terminated 
on the basis that your disclosure is a breach of 
This protection does not apply if you knowingly 
If you are unhappy with an agency’s decision 
make a statement that is false or misleading. It 
not to investigate a matter, you can approach 
also does not apply if you knowingly contravene, 
the agency. The agency procedures may give 
without a reasonable excuse, certain publication 
you a right to an internal review of the decision. 
restrictions listed in the PID Act (these generally 
Similarly, if you believe on reasonable grounds 
concern protecting the identity of people by 
that an investigation was inadequate or the 
such means as court or tribunal orders that 
agency’s response to the investigation was 
information not be published, witness protection 
inadequate, you may wish to raise the matter with 
and law enforcement mechanisms). 
the agency. Consult the agency’s public interest 
disclosure procedures, or talk to an authorised 
Making a disclosure about matters that include 
officer about your options. 
your own wrongdoing also does not protect 
you from liability for your wrongdoing. 
If you are not satisfied with the explanation 
and believe that the agency has not acted 
appropriately, you may be able to have the 
Ombudsman (or the IGIS in the case of 
intelligence agencies) consider the matter by 
making a complaint about the agency. The 
Ombudsman or the IGIS may investigate your 
complaint or may refer it back to the agency for 
further action. The Ombudsman’s office or the 
IGIS will let you know what it decides to do. 

If you are considering legal action in relation 
to reprisal, you should first make sure that the 
You are also protected against reprisal. It is 
agency knows your concerns so that they can 
an offence for any person to cause you any 
take any appropriate action to protect you. It 
detriment because they suspect or believe 
is a good idea to talk the matter over with an 
that you made or will make a public interest 
authorised officer or your supervisor. Taking 
disclosure (s 19). 
legal action is expensive and can be a stressful 
Detriment includes any disadvantage to you, 
process, and you should consider whether you 
including dismissal, injury, discrimination 
will be able to prove your case and the possible 
between you and other employees or alteration 
adverse effects on you (financial and emotional) 
of your position to your disadvantage (s 13(3)). 
if your action fails. 
It does not include administrative action that 
You should also be aware that making a 
is reasonable to protect you from detriment 
disclosure does not exclude you from reasonable 
(s 13(3)), for example, moving you temporarily 
management action for any unsatisfactory 
to another work area. 
performance or wrongdoing on your part – 
If you believe you are being or may be subject 
such action is not a reprisal. 
to a reprisal, you should let your agency know. 
Each agency head has a responsibility to put 
procedures in place for assessing risks that 
reprisals might be taken, and to ensure that 
public officials who belong to the agency 
Even when an agency handles the public interest 
are protected from detriment or threats of 
disclosure process well, making a disclosure can 
detriment related to public interest disclosures 
be a stressful experience. You should be prepared 
(s 59). The agency head’s responsibility to 
for this, and make sure you seek support from 
protect public officials belonging to their agency 
appropriate people. 
applies even if the public official has made 
a disclosure relating to another agency, or a 
You are entitled to support from your agency 
different agency (such as the Ombudsman or 
when making and after you have made a public 
IGIS) is investigating the disclosure. 
interest disclosure. The head of your agency 
must take reasonable steps to protect public 
You also have the right to apply to the Federal 
officials who belong to the agency (including 
Court for compensation for loss, damage or 
staff of contracted service providers) from 
injury you suffer from a reprisal or threat of 
detriment and threats of detriment. 
reprisal (s 14). Your claim can be not only against 
the person causing the reprisal but also their 
Although an investigator may be able to provide 
employer. The employer has a defence if they 
general information about the process, they are 
took reasonable precautions and exercised due 
not the most appropriate person to support you. 
diligence to avoid the reprisal (s 14(2)). 
Their role is to investigate matters objectively 
and impartially, and they may sometimes reach 
You also have the right to seek an injunction 
a conclusion that you were not expecting, based 
from the Federal Court to prevent a reprisal or 
on the evidence they have. 
order an apology, or to make other appropriate 
orders (s 15). If your employment was terminated 
Your agency should be able to link you to 
as a result of a reprisal you may apply to the 
appropriate people you can trust. They may 
Federal Court for reinstatement (s 16). 
have established an internal network of support 
people you can talk to. Larger agencies may 
Making a public interest disclosure is recognised 
have professional staff such as welfare officers. 
for the purposes of the Fair Work Act 2009 
Many agencies provide access for their staff 
(s 22), which protects employees from any 
to counselling services. Remember that while 
unlawful adverse action based on their workplace 
your discussions with people authorised under 
rights. However, to avoid duplication, you cannot 
the PID Act (including a lawyer) are protected, 
seek remedies under the PID Act if you have 
discussions with other people are not. You 
sought remedies under the Fair Work Act 2009 
should not disclose any confidential information 
arising from the same circumstances (s 22A). 
to them, including identifying people you allege 
have committed wrongdoing, but you may find it 
helpful to talk about what you are going through. 

Some key points 
Further information 
to remember 
Have a look at your agency procedures on 
handling public interest disclosures – these 
Disclosures under the PID Act are about matters 
should be available on the agency’s website 
that it is in the public interest to investigate 
and intranet. More information on the PID 
and correct where problems are found. You 
scheme, including fact sheets and guides, 
must have a reasonable belief in what you are 
is on the Ombudsman’s website at 
reporting – this is an objective test based on 
what a reasonable person would believe. You 
should be able to provide information to support 
You may also like to look at the PID Act, PID rules 
an allegation, but you do not need to prove it. 
and standards made by the Ombudsman under 
Nor should you investigate the matter yourself, 
the PID Act – go to for the 
as this may prejudice a future investigation. 
most up-to-date version, or follow the links from 
the Ombudsman’s website. 
Remember that disagreement with government 
policy or expenditure is not a public interest 
For information about the IGIS, see 
For information about breaches of the APS Code 
of Conduct, see Information 
Remember also that there are further 
about Australian workplace rights and rules 
restrictions on who you can make a public 
and the role of the Fairwork Ombudsman is 
interest disclosure to where intelligence 
information or sensitive law enforcement 
information is concerned. 
Your identity will be kept confidential, subject 
to the requirements of the PID Act. You are 
protected from reprisals and from civil and 
criminal liability if you follow the procedures 
in the Act and disclose information only to the 
people who need to be involved. 
Your agency should have authorised officers 
who can receive your disclosure, but you may 
report to your supervisor if you prefer. Your 
agency will have procedures to deal with public 
interest disclosures, and you should make 
yourself familiar with those. The agency must 
respond to your disclosure, and if the matter 
is investigated under the PID Act you have 
a right to a copy of the investigation report and 
to know what action is being taken, with the 
exception of any material that must remain 
in confidence. 

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