Whistling in the dark the protected disclosures act – why?

Author: Louise Taylor

Abstract: Whistleblowing is a behaviour which is diverse in cause and diffuses in effect, making it a particularly challenging topic for legislative intervention. New Zealand was one of the later countries to adopt whistleblowing legislation, and one may expect therefore that lessons learned in other jurisdictions would be accommodated in the Protected Disclosures Act 2001.

This paper explores the social and political characteristics of whistleblowing from an individual and organisational perspective. It then critically analyses New Zealand’s legislative response to the challenge, concluding that the Protected Disclosures Act represents the current political environment much more than it does lessons available to be learned from other jurisdictions on the specific issue of whistleblowing.

In short, this legislation dangerously oversells itself by giving the impression of protecting extremely vulnerable individuals while in fact erecting a seemingly insurmountable range of hurdles in their path and sparsely rewarding those who meet the Act’s highly selective criteria.