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START OF Policies and procedures
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In December 2010, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 was introduced to replace the Whistleblowers Protection Act 1994.
Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) is committed to creating and sustaining a positive ethical climate with accountable behaviour. This comes from leadership that openly recognises the significant contribution staff make to our success and strongly encourages disclosure of unethical and fraudulent behaviour.
View our Public Interest disclosure policy and procedure(PDF, 180KB)
Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) is committed to fostering an ethical, transparent culture. In pursuit of this, LAQ values the disclosure of information about suspected wrongdoing in the public sector so that it can be properly assessed and, if necessary, appropriately investigated. LAQ will provide support to an employee or others who make disclosures about matters in the public interest. This Procedure demonstrates this commitment, and ensures that practical and effective procedures are implemented which comply with the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (PID Act).
By complying with the PID Act, LAQ will:
As required under the PID Act, the Chief Executive Officer will implement procedures to ensure that:
The Chief Executive Officer has overall responsibility for ensuring that LAQ develops, implements and maintains a PID management program. The LAQ PID management program encompasses:
The Chief Executive Officer has designated the following roles and responsibilities for managing PIDs within LAQ:
Manager People Services
People, Culture and Capability
PID Support officer
Specialist Consultant (employee relations)
People, Culture and Capability
An alternative appropriate support person may be nominated depending upon the type of disclosure and other relevant considerations.
Employees who are prepared to speak up about public sector misconduct, wastage of public funds, suspected unlawful activity or danger to health, safety or the environment can be the most important sources of information to identify and address problems in public sector administration. LAQ supports the disclosure of information about wrongdoing because:
When making a PID the discloser receives the protections provided under the PID Act, including:
Under the PID Act, any person can make a disclosure about a:
In addition, public sector officers can make a disclosure about the following public interest matters:
A discloser can have either a ‘reasonable belief’ that wrongdoing has occurred, or provide evidence which tends to show the wrongdoing has occurred.
A disclosure amounts to a PID and is covered by the PID Act even if the:
A PID must be made to the ‘proper authority’ to receive disclosures of the type being made.
Disclosers are encouraged to make a disclosure to an appropriate officer of LAQ first. If the matter is not resolved, or the discloser is concerned about confidentiality, the disclosure may be made to another appropriate agency.
Any person (including employees) can make a disclosure to:
Disclosures can be made to an agency that has a responsibility for investigating the information disclosed:
A disclosure can also be made to a journalist if the following conditions have been met:
A person who makes a disclosure to a journalist in these circumstances is protected under the PID Act. However, disclosers should be aware that journalists are not bound under the confidentiality provisions of section 65 of the PID Act.
A discloser can make a PID in any way, including anonymously, either verbally or in writing. To assist in the assessment, and any subsequent investigation of a PID, disclosers are requested to:
If there is any doubt as to whether a matter is a PID, further information may be obtained to inform the decision. If doubt still remains, the matter will be considered and managed as a PID.
Mere disagreements over policy do not meet the threshold for a PID under the PID Act.
It is an offence under the PID Act to intentionally give false or misleading information intending it be acted on as a PID. Employees may be subject to disciplinary action for intentionally giving false or misleading information in a PID, or during an investigation into a PID.
Where a discloser states they are making a PID, but it is assessed that the matter is not a PID LAQ will advise the discloser:
The disclosure will be assessed in accordance with the PID Act, the PID standards, LAQ’s Public Interest Disclosure Procedure and any other relevant procedure(s).
Once the matter has been assessed as a PID, LAQ will advise the discloser:
If the PID has been made anonymously and the discloser has not provided any contact details, LAQ will not be able to acknowledge the PID or provide any updates.
If LAQ decides there is another proper authority that is better able to deal with the PID, the PID may be referred to that agency. This may be because:
Before referring the PID to another agency, LAQ will conduct a risk assessment, and will not proceed with the referral if there is an unacceptable risk of reprisal.
It may also be necessary to refer the PID to another agency because of a legislative obligation, for example, refer a matter to the Crime and Corruption Commission where there is a reasonable suspicion that the matter involves or may involve corrupt conduct (as required by section 38 of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001).
The confidentiality obligations of the PID Act permit appropriate officers of LAQ to communicate with another agency about the referral of a PID. Officers will exercise discretion in their contacts with any other agency.
The discloser will be advised of the action taken by LAQ.
Disclosers should not suffer any form of detriment as a result of making a PID. Upon receiving a PID, LAQ will conduct a risk assessment to assess the likelihood of the discloser (or witnesses or affected third parties) suffering reprisal action as a result of having made the disclosure. This assessment will take into account the actual and reasonably perceived risk of the discloser (or witnesses or affected third parties) suffering detriment, and will include consultation with the discloser.
A risk assessment will be undertaken if the discloser is anonymous on the basis of information available in the PID. The risk assessment will also take into account the risk to persons who may be suspected of making the PID.
Consistent with the assessed level of risk, LAQ will develop and implement a risk management plan specific to the matter and arrange any reasonably necessary support or protection for the discloser (or witnesses or affected third parties).
LAQ will regularly reassess the risk of reprisal while the PID is being managed, in consultation with the discloser, and review the risk management plan if required.
In the event of reprisal action being alleged or suspected, LAQ will:
Under the PID Act, LAQ may decide not to investigate or deal with a PID in various circumstances, including:
If a decision is made not to investigate or deal with a PID, LAQ will give the discloser written reasons for that decision.
If the discloser is dissatisfied with the decision they can request a review by writing to the Chief Executive Officer of LAQ within 28 days of receiving the written reasons for decision.
Under the PID Act, LAQ must give reasonable information to a discloser.
LAQ will acknowledge receipt of the PID in writing as soon as practicable. The discloser will be provided with information that meets the requirements of the PID Act and the standards issued by the Queensland Ombudsman, including:
LAQ will maintain contact with the discloser and provide regular updates during the management of the PID.
In accordance with the PID Act, after finalising action in response to the PID, LAQ will advise the discloser in writing of the action taken and the results of the action.
While LAQ will make every attempt to protect confidentiality, a discloser’s identity may need to be disclosed to:
LAQ will ensure that communication with all parties involved will be arranged discreetly to avoid identifying the discloser wherever possible.
Disclosers should be aware that while LAQ will make every attempt to keep their details confidential, it cannot guarantee that others will not try to deduce their identity.
LAQ recognises that providing appropriate support to a discloser is an important feature of effective PID management.
An assessment will be undertaken to identify the support needs of the discloser. Where appropriate, a PID Support Officer will be assigned to the discloser. The PID Support Officer will assist the discloser to access information about PIDs, protections available under the PID Act and the PID management process. The PID Support Officer will proactively contact the discloser to offer support.
Information and support will be provided to the discloser until the matter is finalised.
Making a PID does not prevent reasonable management action. That means that the discloser will be continue to be managed in accordance with normal, fair and reasonable management practices during and after the handling of the PID.
If a decision is made to investigate a PID, this will be done with consideration for the:
If as a result of investigation, the information about wrongdoing provided in the PID is substantiated, appropriate action will be taken.
Where the investigation does not substantiate wrongdoing, LAQ will review systems, policies and procedures to identify whether there are improvements that can be made and consider if staff training is required.
LAQ acknowledges that for officers who are the subject of a PID the experience may be stressful. LAQ will protect their rights by:
Information and support will be provided to a subject officer until the matter is finalised.
In accordance with its obligations under the PID Act and the Public Records Act 2002, LAQ will ensure that:
Records about disclosures, investigations, and related decisions will be kept secure and accessible only to appropriately authorised people involved in the management of the PID.
The Public Interest Disclosure Procedure will be reviewed annually and updated as required to ensure it meets the requirements of the PID Act and the standards issued by the Queensland Ombudsman.
LAQ’s Public Interest Disclosure Procedure is available for public viewing at LAQ's website.
As defined in section 15 of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001
As defined in section 11 of the Disability Services Act 2006, for the purposes of this procedure:
A person who makes a disclosure in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010.
of an entity, includes a person engaged by the entity under a contract of service.
For the purposes of this procedure, investigation includes any enquiry undertaken to establish whether the information provided in a PID can be substantiated, including a review or audit.
A person engaged in the occupation of writing or editing material intended for publication in the print or electronic news media.
As defined in schedule 4 of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010, maladministration is administrative action that—
Natural justice, also referred to as ‘procedural fairness’, applies to any decision that can affect the rights, interests or expectations of individuals in a direct or immediate way. Natural justice is at law a safeguard applying to an individual whose rights or interests are being affected.
The rules of natural justice, which have been developed to ensure that decision-making is fair and reasonable, are:
For the purposes of this procedure, organisational support means actions such as, but not limited to:
A person or organisation that is authorised under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 to receive disclosures.
A public officer, of a public sector entity, is an employee, member or officer of the entity.
A view which is objectively fair or sensible.
Reasonable management action
Action taken by a manager in relation to an employee, includes any of the following taken by the manager—
The term ‘reprisal’ is defined under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 as causing, attempting to cause or conspiring to cause detriment to another person in the belief that they or someone else:
Reprisal under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 is a criminal offence and investigations may be undertaken by the Queensland Police Service.
An officer who is the subject of allegations of wrongdoing made in a disclosure.
Substantial and specific
Substantial means 'of a significant or considerable degree'. It must be more than trivial or minimal and have some weight or importance.
Specific means “precise or particular”. This refers to conduct or detriment that is able to be identified or particularised as opposed to broad or general concerns or criticisms.
Crime and Corruption Act 2001 Local Government Act 2009
Ombudsman Act 2001
Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010
Public Records Act 2002
Public Sector Ethics Act 1994
Code of Conduct for the Queensland Public Service
Public Interest Disclosure Standard No. 1/2019
Public Interest Disclosure Standard No. 2/2019
Public Interest Disclosure Standard No. 3/2019
Public Interest Disclosure Guides
Employee complaints management policy
Employee complaints management procedure
Complaints and compliments policy
Fraud and corruption prevention policy
Dealing with complaints against the CEO policy
Dealing with complaints against the chairman of the board or member/s of the board policy
LAQ’s Risk Management Policy
Last updated 16 October 2019