Tuesday, 25 February 2020
Banking and Financial Services
I, and also on behalf of Senator Waters, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Tax Justice Network Financial Secrecy Index, released on 18 February 2020, assigns Australia a secrecy score of 50 out of 100, and
(ii) the Narrative Report on Australia states that Australia undoubtedly hosts significant quantities of illicit funds from outside the country, and identified that the following weaknesses in Australian law continue to enable illicit funds to find a safe haven in Australia:
(A) that real estate agents, accountants and lawyers are not subject to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing obligations, and
(B) the absence of adequate transparency measures for the beneficial ownership of companies; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to introduce legislation that would:
(i) ensure that real estate agents, accountants and lawyers are subject to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing obligations; and
(ii) establish a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership of companies.
The government is committed to continually improving Australia's anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing laws without placing an undue burden on industry. Last year the government introduced the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, which will strengthen the regime by improving requirements around customer identification, correspondent banking and the sharing of financial intelligence. The government is also strongly committed to improving the transparency of information around beneficial ownership and control of companies available to relevant authorities. It is considering how best to give effect to this commitment without imposing unnecessary regulation. The government continues to carefully consider a range of options for future regulatory reform. Senate grandstanding is in no way going to make economic and national security policy.
Labor will also be opposing this motion. While we support elements of the motion, including the call to create a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership of companies, we don't believe that a motion like this begins to scratch the surface of the government's complete apathy towards anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism finance regulation.
Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting—
Mr Whish-Wilson, I listened to you—if I could just finish. This government hasn't even dealt with their badly explained cash ban bill yet, let alone implemented the recommendations of the 2016 review into anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism financing. Labor is committed to pursuing this issue and holding the government to account for its failures, but this complex issue needs careful and thorough consideration and debate, which the time allocated to this motion today does not provide.