The Charlie’s Angels 2019 Corporate Whistleblower Would Now Be Protected In Australia
By Will Elton, Last updated: 2021-05-27 (originally published on 2019-12-04)
Charlie’s Angels has been regenerated for modern audiences by director Elizabeth Banks with three new leads (Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska) and a story that’s very this year: corporate whistleblowing. With at least three other films this year around this motif (Dark Waters; Official Secrets; The Report), it seems taking big business to task is a very big theme for 2019.
After the initial action-packed opening sequence, the new film zones in on the story line of an uber-smart engineer, Elena, who has created a high-tech energy source for a global conglomerate. But here’s the hitch: it’s not safe and it can be weaponised. She can fix it, but she needs more time. But, the company she works for is greedy to make it to market first, referencing Thomas Edison’s rivals as the reason they can’t let her complete her safety protocols. She is summarily dismissed and told to keep quiet.
Elena does what we all hope we would morally do in the same circumstances and bravely decides to blow the whistle on her meal ticket rather than allow it to endanger the lives of all. Her life is then in mortal peril and Charlie’s Angels step in to protect this corporate whistleblower for the good of mankind.
Rather than give you a review of the film (feel-good, feminist fun in three words, if you’re interested) we are going to concentrate on the legal aspect of Elena’s plight and her rights had this story been set in Australia. The reason for this is an exciting one, in a forward-thinking motion, Australia have just updated their whistleblower laws and Elena would need only take herself to human resources where she would be completely, and anonymously, protected as of July 1, 2019.
Wasn’t She Protected Before?
You may say to yourself, “Wait, she wouldn’t have been protected before?”. Well, certainly not sufficiently. Around the world there are various degrees of protection afforded to whistleblowers. With most whistleblower protection lacking scope, meaning in many cases, a whistleblower’s life will change for the worse. Whether it be victimisation, dismissal from duties, or something altogether worse.
But then we have the good old land down under. Australia’s new federal whistleblower protection regime has enacted new laws to expose corporate (and in some cases, personal) misbehaviour. The category has expanded to protect employees, officers and suppliers of companies as well as their family members. Also, disclosures made anonymously are still protected by the laws.
The new laws require larger Australian companies to create a Whistleblower Policy before January 2020 and includes penalties for breaches of whistleblower protection that reach up to $10.5million.
So, you can now feel much safer about reporting on corporate malfeasance, should you work for an Australian company. And if you clicked on this not because you’re a whistleblower, but a film buff instead, we recommend heading to the cinema for the latest reboot of the 70s classic. You’re in for a playful and colourful comedic feast of action, and fashion.
You can read more about the ins and outs of the new laws here: Australia’s New Whistleblower Laws: Here’s What Employers Need to Do
This article does not constitute legal advice.
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.