Monday, 18 October 2021
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Equity Investments and Other Measures) Bill 2021; In Committee
In my contribution on this amendment, I think it's important that I put on the record the answer to this question, which really goes to the heart of why the Greens have put this forward: why does EFA need a freedom-of-information exemption? I think that if I can answer that, members of this chamber will feel comfortable to not support this amendment.
The exemption that exists for EFA from freedom-of-information laws provides certainty to EFA's customers and other financial institutions that the sensitive information they provide as part of those deals will remain confidential. The exemption is partial and only applies to transactions EFA is handling. It doesn't apply in a broader sense to, for instance, its accountability to government. Removing this targeted exemption in the way that is proposed by this amendment would have an impact on EFA's ability to safeguard the legitimate interests in the financial or business sense of its customers, which would, in turn, have a negative impact on those businesses' ability to work with EFA. It becomes a bit of a self-defeating proposition.
I should also put on the record that it's not correct to assert that EFA doesn't provide transparency on transactions. EFA is required to disclose its participation in all transactions, no matter what industry that transaction touches upon, within eight weeks of the finalisation of that transaction. Those details include: the name of the client; the sector in which they operate; the goods or services involved; the overseas infrastructure involved; the country; the type of facility; and the value of the facility of the export or overseas infrastructure support.
EFA discloses its proposed involvement in transactions with the potential for significant environmental and/or social impacts, in addition to all the things I've set out, on its website prior to making a decision on the provision of finance, giving that extra layer of transparency should it be anything that might be a matter of a sensitive nature. I'd suggest that senators can feel assured that the exemption is limited only to what is necessary to give commercial efficacy to the transactions involved, and otherwise provides that there needs to be disclosure within eight weeks of finalisation of key information here in Australia.