Overly complex and inaccessible whistleblowing laws will be overhauled to make the process easier for public servants who witness wrongdoing, the government has promised.
But some experts want to see the commitment enacted urgently and ahead of the next federal election.
The laws, brought in by a Labor government in 2013, have been heavily criticised for being hard to wrangle for lawyers and judges, let alone public servants, with an independent review handed to government in 2016 calling for sweeping improvements.
Assistant minister to the Attorney-General Amanda Stoker has committed to making the process more coherent and accessible with stronger protections against reprisals for APS whistleblowers in a speech delivered to a whistleblowing conference on Thursday.
"The objectives of the Act are clear and simple; the Act itself is not," Senator Stoker said.
"This perceived lack of support may discourage people from reporting public sector wrongdoing, ultimately leading to a public service that is less accountable and less trusted by the public.
"The reforms will not only secure greater protections against reprisals for those who make disclosures, but also those who could make a disclosure - regardless of whether or not they actually do."
The federal government said it was considering providing legal advice for those wanting to make disclosures, giving greater oversight powers to the Commonwealth Ombudsman and expanding definitions to limit workplace reprisals against disclosers.
It will also consider a legal defence for journalists reporting on disclosures that are in the public interest.
In 2019, a Federal Court judge called the law "technical, obtuse and intractable" after a Parliament House security guard alleged he had been fired after attempting to blow the whistle on senior officials.
Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer Kieran Pender, who has long advocated for changes to the laws, welcomed the senator's comments but added the reforms should be enacted before the next election.
"Reform to the Public Interest Disclosure Act is long overdue. In 2016, the federal government was told the PID Act needed an overhaul - five years later, we are still waiting to see draft amendments," he said.
"Whistleblowers should be protected, not punished - and law reform to make that a reality is more urgent than ever."
The Coalition senator said it was important the laws are fixed in order to clear confusion and restore trust in the system.
"Ensuring the integrity of our public institutions is critical to democracy. Trust and confidence in our democratic institutions has never been more important," she said.
"The Public Interest Disclosure Act plays a vital role. We are committed to ensuring that it is robust, effective and fit for purpose."
But independent senator Rex Patrick, who was in attendance at the conference, said he was less convinced of Senator Stoker's commitment, calling the government's long delays to enact whistleblowing law reform a "big failure".
"I find it difficult to believe what [Senator Stoker] says in terms of particularly getting some legislation into this parliament," he said.
"We've basically run out of time to do that.
"For me, it's a big failure for this government in relation to whistleblower protection."
The announcement comes as a number of public service whistleblowers are being pursued by the federal government over public interest disclosures.
Former Australian Taxation Office debt collection officer Richard Boyle was charged with 24 offences after he revealed to the media the office's heavy-handed approach to retrieving debts from small business owners.
Mr Boyle lodged a public interest disclosure in 2017, which was dismissed by the tax agency, before going to the media.
A parliamentary report released last year found the ATO had conducted a "superficial investigation" into his concerns.
If he is found guilty, he could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
"I was quite conscious that it was not a perfect scheme," Mr Dreyfus told The Canberra Times last month.
"It was an appropriate scheme but needed to be in operation for some years and then be reviewed."
The former attorney-general has also vowed to address he law's long-overdue issues if Labor is successful at the next federal election.
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