Universities Australia provided a submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs' Inquiry into whistleblowing protections within the Australian Government public sector.
Australia's universities are committed to maintaining robust transparency and accountability arrangements. Many are already subject to state and territory whistleblowing legislation and apply internal protected disclosure provisions consistent with these legislative obligations.It is not clear whether public universities (other than the Australian National University) properly fall within the ambit of the current inquiry. The General Government Sector is defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as "Institutional sector comprising all government units and non-profit institutions controlled and mainly financed by government". Almost all public universities are established under state and territory legislation and only receive on average around 20 per cent of their revenue from direct institutional grants from the Commonwealth (with another 20 per cent in competitive grants to individual academic researchers), so do not fit within this definition. In general, as universities are subject to extensive state and territory accountability arrangements (e.g. ombudsmen, auditors-general, protected disclosure arrangements), Universities Australia would seek to avoid additional obligations to the Commonwealth beyond those applying to specific Commonwealth funding programs.
Earlier in 2008, Universities Australia was approached by the Minister for Innovation, Industry Science and Research, Senator the Hon. Kim Carr for advice on a possible Research Ombudsman Office. In a letter to the Minister in July 2008, we argued that there was no demonstrated need for such an office, since the number of serious misconduct cases in Australian universities was small, almost all cases could be dealt with satisfactorily through university grievance and workplace relations mechanisms, and the imposition of such an office would have adverse implications for university autonomy.
To read the full submission, download the PDF below.