Government Plays Catch-Up On Foreign Bribery

Labor welcomes today’s belated announcement that Australian law enforcement agencies will get a $15 million funding boost to tackle the scourge of foreign bribery, delivered by the Abbott-Turnbull government as it finally responds to repeated calls throughout its three-year term to take the problem seriously.

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

THE HON DAVID FEENEY MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE

MEMBER FOR BATMAN

 

SENATOR CHRIS KETTER

CHAIR, ECONOMICS REFERENCES COMMITTEE

SENATOR FOR QUEENSLAND

 

GOVERNMENT PLAYS CATCH-UP ON FOREIGN BRIBERY

 

Labor welcomes today’s belated announcement that Australian law enforcement agencies will get a $15 million funding boost to tackle the scourge of foreign bribery, delivered by the Abbott-Turnbull government as it finally responds to repeated calls throughout its three-year term to take the problem seriously.

 

In government and opposition, Labor has fiercely pursued the issue of foreign bribery in the face of Liberal Party indifference.

 

  • In late 2011 the Labor Gillard government announced a pilot of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, designed to bring an increased level of scrutiny on transactions between government and oil, gas and mining companies to weed out corruption. The Abbott-Turnbull government did nothing to progress the issue on the completion of the pilot in 2014. Now, in the wake of the Unaoil scandal, it is reportedly planning to implement the initiative in full just before an election campaign.

  • In May 2013, former Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced Australia would join the Open Government Partnership, a global intergovernmental initiative to promote transparency, fight corruption and share data between countries. Again, that was forgotten about when the Abbott government was elected in 2013 and allowed to languish only to be picked up again by Mr Turnbull four months ago.

  • In June 2015, Labor initiated a Senate Inquiry into Foreign Bribery which has put a spotlight on the issue in Australia and examined ways the system can be strengthened. As late as Friday, new discoveries about alleged foreign bribery practices at Leighton Holdings were unveiled.

 

In contrast to Labor’s record in both government and opposition, the Abbott-Turnbull government has done very little to respond to the problem of foreign bribery until today, less than two weeks before an election is likely to be called.

 

The funding boost for the Australian Federal Police and its foreign bribery unit announced today is a welcome example of the Abbott-Turnbull government once again responding to an agenda set by Labor.

 

Australia has a low rate of successful prosecutions internationally in the area of foreign bribery, and Labor believes improvements can be made, including possible changes to legislation and ensuring better coordination between the AFP and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

 

This is an ongoing priority area for Labor. Unlike the government and its Attorney-General George Brandis, who is apparently more interested in personal attacks on the opposition.

 

Labor is proud of its record in government and in opposition on tackling foreign bribery, and glad the government has finally woken up to the need to do more.

 

SATURDAY, 23 APRIL 2016