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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 153

Senator LUDWIG (6:51 PM) —I rise in this adjournment debate tonight to talk about the AUSTRAC annual report. As I said earlier this evening, Customs officers and the Federal Police have been doing an excellent job of late in relation to the identification and seizure of drugs. Of course, this is just one facet of drug law enforcement. Of equal importance is tracing drug money that has been laundered and tracing funds to and from criminal and terrorist organisations.

As a result of the announcement of the new international anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing standards in June 2003, the Australian government authorised the review of Australia's anti-money laundering regime to update Australia's legislative requirements to meet the new standards. This review is being conducted by the Attorney-General's Department. The number of suspect transaction reports received this year has increased by up to 42 per cent. It would seem therefore imperative that the Attorney-General's review be finalised and delivered. However, that is not the case. We wonder whether Senator Ellison is even talking to the Attorney-General about the need for this review. It is needed, it should be dealt with and it should be completed now. Until the review is completed, AUSTRAC is unable to get on with its real role. The scope of AUSTRAC's future work is dependent on the outcome of this review. How can it plan, how can it determine its strategies for the coming years and how can it get ready for new international standards that might arise unless the Attorney-General completes his review and maps out what AUSTRAC's requirements are?

The simple facts are that, if access to finance is cut off, terrorists cannot purchase weapons or bankroll their operations. If access to finance is cut off, criminals are denied access to their ill-gotten gains. This really brings truth to the saying that crime does not pay. There is no doubt, however, that the longer we wait for this review the harder it will be for AUSTRAC to fulfil its duties properly. It is high time the Howard government pulled its act together, got behind its agency and expedited the review so that AUSTRAC can act on the recommendations and get on with its job.