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Monday, 30 May 2011
Page: 5039

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Privacy and Freedom of Information, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice) (16:22): I thank the member of Page and the members for McEwen, Stirling and Oxley for their contributions. The member for Page is quite right; the government did consider the impacts upon small businesses, took submissions from representative bodies and took submissions from members of parliament, who raised the potential adverse impacts of this levy upon organisations within their own constituencies, particularly smaller businesses and businesses in those regional areas that we would not want to impose on unnecessarily. I believe, through the process of engagement with the sector, with members of parliament and with people who are advocating on behalf of those who are involved in this sector, we have come up with a very good balance indeed.

I note that the member for Stirling did indicate that the opposition would support this bill unamended through the House. Of course, we will wait to see whether in fact the opposition will support this bill unamended in the other place. However, I say to the opposition that, if we are looking at ensuring we are sufficiently resourced to have very strong, rigorous regulations to protect the interests of our financial system and indeed protect us against organised crime and other threats to this country, there needs to be a solution. If there is just criticism of a mechanism enclosed within a number of bills, that in itself is not enough. I do implore the member for Stirling to keep that in mind. It is important that we get this right. A lot of work has gone into this and a lot of engagement with the sector, and I do believe that we have struck the right balance.

Organised crime, as has been said by all of the speakers in this debate, is a significant national security threat and challenge for Australia. Through the Commonwealth Organised Crime Strategic Framework, the government is ensuring that Commonwealth intelligence, policy, regulatory and law enforcement agencies are working together to prevent, disrupt, investigate and prosecute organised crime. AUSTRAC plays a critical role in the fight against organised crime. Through its regulatory activities, AUSTRAC helps to mitigate the risk of Australian businesses being used for money laundering, terrorism financing and other organised crime. This legislative package is necessary to give effect to the 2010 budget commitment that, consistent with the government's cost recovery guidelines, AUSTRAC will recover the costs of its regulatory activities from 1 July this year.

The levy bill imposes a levy on entities regulated by AUSTRAC under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006. It provides that the amount of levy payable for each financial year will be determined by legislative instrument and cannot exceed a statutory limit of $33 million indexed. The collection bill enables AUSTRAC to collect the supervisory cost recovery levy and establishes the necessary framework for administering the levy, including matters relating to collection, invoicing and dealing with late payments. The collection bill also introduces administrative review of a decision by the AUSTRAC CEO to waive a levy or late payment penalty. Significant consultation has occurred with industry around the structure of AUSTRAC's supervisory levy. Through this process the government has, as I said earlier, listened to the concerns of business and made significant adjustments to lessen the burden, particularly on small business.

The third bill in this package, the consequential amendments bill, amends the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act to introduce compulsory enrolment for all reporting entities regulated by AUSTRAC. This formalises current arrangements where AUSTRAC encourages entities to voluntarily enrol. Mandating this requirement will mean that AUSTRAC can better identify its regulated population for the purposes of calculating and applying the AUSTRAC cost recovery levy. The consequential amendments bill also amends the current infringement notice scheme to allow for the issuing of notices for failure to enrol and failure to appropriately maintain enrolment details. I commend this legislative package to the House and, in doing so, I also table a correction to the explanatory memorandum in relation to all three bills.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.