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States hamper fight against money laundering.

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14 November 2003 R024/2003


The Australian Government has been frustrated in its fight against crime and terrorism with a continuing unwillingness by the States and Territories to remove uncertainties over money laundering, Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock said today.

The States and Territories have declined to make a decision on a reference of constitutional power to enact comprehensive money laundering offences at today’s meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) in Hobart.

At the April 2002 Leaders’ Summit on Terrorism and Multi-jurisdictional Crime, Australian Government, State and Territory leaders committed to reforming money laundering laws to create effective offences, including a reference of power to the Commonwealth as necessary.

At the previous SCAG meeting in August 2003, the States and Territories indicated they would not refer power on money laundering to the Commonwealth and again refused to commit to doing so at today’s meeting.

“By deferring a decision to refer power, the States and Territories continued to frustrate the Government’s efforts to develop a comprehensive anti-money laundering regime,” Mr Ruddock said.

“A comprehensive regime will assist in ensuring Australia has the capacity to actively contribute to the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

“My State and Territory colleagues are well aware of the links between money laundering and organised and transnational crime, including serious fraud, drug trafficking and terrorism,” he said.

State and Territory representatives have already acknowledged that there is a constitutional gap that prevents the Government from implementing comprehensive money laundering offences.

If the constitutional gap is not addressed, there is a risk of Commonwealth prosecutions failing on technical grounds. Only a reference of power can remove this risk.

“The Australian Government does not seek to assume sole responsibility for money laundering offences,” Mr Ruddock said.

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“The Government strongly supports efforts by States and Territories to reform their laws and comprehensive federal offences would operate alongside those of the States and Territories.”

A reference of constitutional power would ensure that seamless and effective money laundering laws exist across Australia.

“This matter will remain on the SCAG agenda and the Australian Government will continue identifying potential gaps to advance its case,” Mr Ruddock said.

“I look forward to greater cooperation from my State and Territory colleagues in implementing this important Leaders’ Summit resolution.

“If agreement can be reached, I would encourage action to be taken without waiting for a subsequent meeting of Attorneys,” he said.

Media Contact: Steve Ingram (02) 6277 7300 0419 278 715