Politics Analysis

Australia finally joins global efforts to stop terrorists getting easy finance

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The Albanese Government has pledged to fight harder against money laundering and terrorism financing (Image by Dan Jensen)

The Albanese Government is fixing nearly nine years of unchecked criminal money laundering, as Alan Austin reports.

AUSTRALIA HAS BEGUN its long, slow climb out of the sewers of sleaze and corruption now a new government committed to integrity has replaced the grimy and incompetent Coalition.

Until April this year, Australia was one of only five countries – out of more than 200 – which had not signed on to international efforts to stop terrorist groups from laundering money easily.

Attorney General in the Albanese Labor Government, Mark Dreyfus, has announced that Australia will adopt the so-called Tranche 2 requirements aimed at obstructing, if not ending, money laundering and terrorism financing.

Global efforts strengthened

The Tranche 2 requirements oblige accountants, lawyers, real estate agents, and precious stone dealers to report any suspicious transactions and undertake genuine due diligence on dodgy customers.

In February, Australia’s Federal Police exposed a $10 billion money-laundering syndicate, confirming criminal gangs have been washing and safeguarding their dirty money in Australia’s real estate sector for years.

According to the CEO of Transparency International Australia, Clancy Moore, at least 20 Australian lawyers have recently been convicted of fraud, money laundering and tax avoidance. The values involved are in the billions of dollars.

Mr Moore said:

“The last few years have also seen a conveyor belt of money laundering scandals. This robs communities of revenue and allows criminals to hide their proceeds of crime. Clearly, it’s time for the Government to introduce Tranche 2 reforms...”

Reform long overdue

A statutory review of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 recommended this legislation back in 2016. The industry has called for this action ever since.

Announcing his decision to introduce legislation after a consultation period, Mark Dreyfus said:

No legitimate business wants to assist the laundering of money which funds serious crimes including terrorism, child abuse and the illicit drug trade.

 

Left unaddressed, Australia’s financial system would remain vulnerable to criminal exploitation through the use of professional services, weakening the overall integrity of Australia’s [anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing] regime.

In welcoming the Albanese Government’s decision, Transparency International slammed the former Coalition.

Clancy Moore said Australia was:

‘...seen globally as being open for business for kleptocrats and organised criminal syndicates, who are able to easily launder their money in Australian real estate and gambling sectors.’

History of Australia’s corruption ranking

Earlier this year, Transparency International reported that Australia’s global standing on corruption is already recovering after nearly nine years of going backwards.

Australia’s score on corruption perceptions increased from 73 in 2021 to 75 in 2022. Ranking improved from a lowly 18th – the lowest ever – to 13th. That’s after just over half a year of the Labor Government.

The Corruption Perceptions Index is widely regarded as the leading global measure of public sector corruption. It offers an annual snapshot of corruption by scoring and ranking 180 nations. Scores can then be compared across nations and from year to year.

When Transparency International began its global rankings in 1995, Australia ranked a creditable seventh out of 41 mostly advanced countries assessed back then. As analysed here and elsewhere, rankings have suffered badly through Coalition periods and recovered during Labor administrations.

From seventh-ranked in 2012, the last full year of the Rudd/Gillard Government, rankings tanked under the Coalition, reaching a disastrous equal 18th in 2021, the Morrison regime’s last full year. See chart, below.

(Data source: Transparency International)

Latest developments in Europe

Late last week, the European Commission unveiled its long-awaited anti-corruption package which will harmonise efforts across the European Union.

Transparency International welcomed this as well, having noted earlier this year that many EU countries have been targeting corruption with outdated laws and piecemeal approaches — and failing at it.

The other four countries yet to sign on to the Tranche 2 reforms are China, Haiti, Madagascar and the United States. Australia’s move may encourage them to do so.

Finally, an opinion on Albo’s travels

Also in Europe last week, Prime Minister Albanese attended the coronation of King Charles and was interviewed for News Corp TV by Piers Morgan. These follow his appearance at Sydney broadcaster Kyle Sandilands’ wedding last month. The Prime Minister has been beaten about the ears for all three decisions, particularly in the alternative media, including this journal.

The view of this column is that while we may disapprove of aspects of the characters of and influence peddled by Messrs K Sandilands and C Mountbatten-Windsor, it was okay for Albo to attend both knees-ups. Yes, he risked tarnishment by contact with unsavoury types at both events. But he was likely also to have met people with whom networking is strategic, either for Labor or the nation. And he’s entitled to some fun occasionally, especially on someone else’s quid.

His decision, however, to appear on News Corp TV was deeply regrettable because that tacitly acknowledges the Murdoch network as a legitimate news outlet. It isn’t.

Multiple events already this year have proven that News Corp is on balance a force for profound evil worldwide. Several court cases in recent months, including last Thursday’s conviction in the USA of four Proud Boys on seditious conspiracy charges, have provided further evidence that the pact between News Corp and Donald Trump has directly caused many thousands of preventable violent deaths and multiple times that number of vicious assaults.

The sooner News Corp disappears entirely the better for humankind. Happy to discuss in the forum below.

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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