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Thursday, 10 December 2020
Page: 7405


Senator KITCHING (Victoria) (09:44): Money laundering and terrorism financing are not just problems for Australia; they are global problems. They threaten Australia's national security and the integrity of Australia's financial system. This is why Labor is supporting the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. It implements a second phase of reforms arising from the recommendations of the Report on the statutory review of the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing act 2006 and associated rules and regulation, tabled in parliament on 29 April 2016. The bill will also address some of the deficiencies identified by the Financial Action Task Force in its Mutual evaluation report on Australia's anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing regime in 2015.

It is crucial to note, however, that the bill does not address all these deficiencies. Australia's anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing framework will remain noncompliant or only partially compliant with many of the recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force in its 2015 Mutual evaluation report. Labor has consistently called for this government to ensure Australia's anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing framework continues to evolve. Labor is concerned about the slow pace of reform by the Morrison government to improve Australia's ability to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. It seems quite unusual that the Minister for Home Affairs seems to be so uninterested in cutting terrorists off from access to their money, which is what strengthening Australia's financial crime legislation would do. Indeed, we have seen over the past few months, via the New South Wales casino inquiry, just how large the gaps are in Australia's AML/CTF framework. Through the New South Wales inquiry, we have heard allegations of widespread money laundering and terrorism financing taking place in casinos through junket operations. These money-laundering and terrorism offences have been taking place for years.

The government knew all about the risks from casino junkets because Australia financial crime watchdog, AUSTRAC, told them about the risks. In 2017, AUSTRAC warned the government that compliance by casinos appeared to be generally more with the letter than the spirit of the law, and that casinos used these technicalities to absolve themselves of conducting robust due diligence in relation to the source of the funds presented to them. Of greatest concern, however, is that AUSTRAC told the government that the current laws were not fit for purpose. There is a limited extent to which state based regulation could be said to mitigate the gaps in AUSTRAC's regulation of junkets. What has this government done in response? Nothing. This government must do more. Australia cannot become a weak link in the global financial system and a soft touch for organised criminals around the world seeking to launder the proceeds of crime.

I will also say that Labor has considered the Greens amendment. While we support the intent of the additional designated services proposed by the Greens, Labor does not believe this is the right way to achieve considered law reform. We are concerned about the unintended consequences of this amendment and want to make sure our counterterrorism-financing laws make it harder, not easier, for money launderers or terrorist financiers.

I would like to conclude my remarks with these thoughts:

Money is the lifeblood and motivation behind organised crime and the ability to prevent money-laundering and detect the flow of the proceeds of crime and terrorism funding is an essential part of deterring and disrupting serious crime and terrorist activity.

The emergence of new technologies and faster and more efficient ways to move money around the world means that international cooperation between financial intelligence units has never been more important.

These are powerful words. Commanding. Forceful. Sadly, they're only words. They are the rhetorical and empty words from the man who's responsible for anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism financing in this country, the Minister for Home Affairs.

Since becoming minister, Mr Dutton has barely stepped up to the plate to fight money laundering and terrorism financing. Of course, he's not the first coalition minister to not deliver the reforms Australia needs. Since 2013, the coalition has repeatedly missed its own anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing reform timetable. Australians are becoming more and more accustomed to this kind of governing. This is government Scott Morrison style. He's a Prime Minister who loves making announcements but doesn't deliver. Australians need a government that delivers. It's time for the Prime Minister to deliver on real anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing reform.