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Thursday, 10 December 2020
Page: 7415


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (10:31): I rise to sum up the debate on the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. I do thank all senators for their contributions to the debate and I also thank them for indicating that they are supporting the legislation that the government has brought before the Senate. This bill amends the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006, the Australian Federal Police Act 1979, the Criminal Code Act 1995, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and the Surveillance Devices Act 2004.

This bill implements a second phase of reforms arising from the recommendations of the report of the statutory review of the into the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 and associated rules and regulations. The purpose of the bill is to strengthen Australia's anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing regime, and ensure Australia's financial system is resilient to criminal exploitation. It will also deliver significant regulatory savings to businesses providing services regulated under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act.

I also thank the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, which inquired into the bill, and I have its recommendations before me. One recommendation is that the Senate pass the bill and that the bill be passed, I note, without the amendments. Some committee members have made comments relating to the Financial Action Task Force 2015 mutual evaluation report. The government, I advise, is taking a phased approach to reforming the anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing regime, which was signalled in 2016 when responding to that evaluation, and a domestic review of that regime. A phased approach will enable the government to more effectively consult with stakeholders and stagger the regulatory impact of the measures on regulated businesses. By phasing these reforms, the government is giving businesses time to understand their obligations, and this will have the effect, obviously, of thereby improving those businesses' compliance with the changes to the legislation. The government will continue to consider how Australia's anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing regime can be further strengthened. We will be doing that to counter money laundering and terrorism financing, and we will work with businesses to co-design future phases of reform.

One committee member recommended the government introduce legislation to regulate lawyers, accountants and real estate agents under the act.

Senator McKim interjecting

Senator CASH: Yes, as Senator McKim said, that was him. I understand the Australian Greens, as they have indicated, will be moving an amendment to this effect. This Australian government is committed to continually improving Australia's anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism-financing regime and to working with businesses to ensure that Australia's financial system is hardened against criminals and terrorists, but without placing an undue regulatory burden on industry.

Expanding the existing regime to lawyers, accountants and real estate agents would capture as many as 100,000 additional businesses, the majority of which are small businesses or sole traders and practitioners. It would also have a significant resourcing impact on the regulator, AUSTRAC, which would need to oversee compliance of these businesses. Any future phases of anti-money-laundering counterterrorism financing reform will be tailored and will be appropriate to the Australian context, and industry will be fully consulted with at that time.

In conclusion, the bill will introduce the next phase of reforms to ensure that Australia's anti-money-laundering counterterrorism financing regime will continue to effectively combat the evolving and significant threats posed by transnational, serious and organised crime. Transnational, serious and organised crime costs the Australian community up to $47.4 billion each year, threatening not just our safety and wellbeing but also our national security. The bill will give law enforcement agencies vital tools to address this threat, whilst reducing regulatory costs on industry by around $3.1 billion over the next 10 years. These reforms will ensure that Australia's law enforcement, intelligence and revenue protection agencies have appropriate and timely access to valuable financial intelligence to protect the Australian community in the global fight against organised crime and terrorism. The bill will also implement key recommendations of the 2016 statutory review of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006. Additionally, the bill will criminalise the act of dishonestly taking credit for receiving police awards, ensuring that the bravery and heroism of our police forces is respected. On that note, I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.