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The “tough cop on the beat” that Australia really needs has been eviscerated

Apparently we will be going to a double dissolution election in less than three months because union corruption in the construction industry has so hamstrung the economy that the government can no longer function.

What is even more apparent is that the government has very little will to address the vastly more corrosive corruption in business and government.

In October 2012, the OECD produced a highly critical report on how corporate bribery allegations were handled in Australia.

“The Working Group on Bribery has serious concerns that overall enforcement of the foreign bribery offence to date has been extremely low. Only one foreign bribery case has led to prosecutions. These prosecutions were commenced in 2011 and are on-going. Out of 28 foreign bribery referrals that have been received by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), 21 have been concluded without charges. The Working Group thus recommends that the AFP take sufficient steps to ensure that foreign bribery allegations are not prematurely closed, and be more proactive in gathering information from diverse sources at the pre-investigative stage.”

The report makes many recommendations including stressing the importance of ASIC’s role.

“Regarding the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), the Working Group recommends that Australia take steps to ensure that ASIC‘s experience and expertise in investigating corporate economic crimes are used to assist the AFP to prevent, detect and investigate foreign bribery.”

Then along came Hockey’s first budget in 2014 which flagged a cut of $120 million to ASIC’s funding over four years. His next budget cut a further $18 million over the next three to four years.

ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft and head of the Abbott government’s financial system inquiry David Murray both slammed the cuts saying ASIC was underfunded as is. They both also bemoaned the weak penalties imposed for crimes exposed by ASIC.

As a result of the cuts, ASIC has scaled back its “cop on the beat” activities uncovering corporate wrongdoing and over 200 jobs have been lost so far.

The regulator’s chief of operations, Carlos Iglesias, said proactive surveillance in which investigators target as-yet unreported corporate misbehaviour was part of the agency’s “discretionary” activities which had to be scaled back in order to continue its “statutory” role of registering and regulating companies.

But even that looks shaky.

Under the banner of “smaller government reforms” the 2015 budget revealed the government will provide $11.6 million in 2015-16 to the Department of Finance to undertake a competitive tender process to market test the capacity of a private provider to upgrade and operate the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) Registry and to “develop value added products.” In addition, it will provide ASIC with $1 million in 2015-16 to assist with preparations.

The OECD report said that, of the 28 possible corporate bribery cases referred to the AFP, 12 were “evaluated, rejected for investigation, and ‘terminated’, while 9 cases were accepted for investigation but had been ‘finalised’ without resulting in charges because of insufficient evidence. There currently are 7 cases on-going.”

Annex 4 of the report gives descriptions of certain terminated, finalised or ongoing investigations “anonymised at the request of the Australian government.”

One of the terminated cases was the Casino Foreign Bribery Case

“In 2009, authorities in a foreign country brought charges against one of their officials for domestic bribery and listed two projects by an Australian casino company as ―suspect projects in the indictment. According to media reports, indications of bribery included the fact that the casinos were granted land that was originally planned for the construction of a university, and construction began before formal rezoning procedures were completed and recorded. Australia reported to the Working Group that the AFP supported investigations by the foreign authorities, but did not start a domestic investigation.”

In 2009, the SMH reported that “two casinos partly controlled by billionaire James Packer’s Crown Ltd have been linked to a major bribery and money-laundering case in Macau.”

In August 2014, they further reported that “Taiwanese prosecutors have charged a subsidiary of James Packer’s Macau casino joint venture over the alleged illegal channeling of hundreds of millions of dollars between Taiwan and the gambling enclave.”

But of course, the owner of Barangaroo has done nothing wrong. After all, didn’t our own Prime Minister escort him on a trip to meet Chinese government officials and businessmen?

Under ‘finalised’, the report also mentions the AWB scandal.

“Wheat Board Case

Two unnamed former employees of an Australian grain marketing organisation were alleged to have bribed officials in three foreign countries during the 1990s, and that payments in two foreign countries continued in 2000 after enactment of anti-bribery laws. The AFP closed an investigation into corruption in three foreign countries for lack of evidence, based on the legal advice received from independent Queen‘s Counsel that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction and that it was unclear whether breach of UN sanctions was a crime in Australia. The AFP has assisted in civil proceedings by ASIC against six former directors and officers of the Australian organisation. As of June 2012, two directors of the grain marketing organisation have been found to have contravened the Corporations Act.”

A May 2015 update from the OECD said “many of the OECD Working Group’s recommendations remain only partially implemented or not implemented at all.”

“Many well known Australian companies have become embroiled in scandals involving the bribery of foreign officials in order to win or retain business abroad. Since October 2012, 15 new foreign bribery allegations have surfaced involving Australian companies and there are currently 17 investigations on foot.”

As more evidence comes to light every day about corruption in business, tax avoidance, bribes, and questionable political donations, remind me again what is crippling the economy?

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  1. Möbius Ecko

    And we had Turnbull, as usual all words, going on about banks’ malfeasances yet offering absolutely nothing to fix the ongoing bank rip offs and shoddy practices.

    (sigh) As is the norm for Australia nowadays for the MSM in relation to the Liberals, but most of all to Turnbull, almost to a tee were effusive about Malcolm’s words lambasting the banks. Not a single one asked the simple question of; “what are you going to do about it?”

  2. Terry2

    Congratulations to the supposedly ‘lame duck’ Obama administration who have foiled the attempts of Pfizer, the second largest pharmaceutical company in the world – Novartis being the largest – from carrying out a strategy aimed at legal tax avoidance by being “taken over” by much smaller Southern Ireland based Allergan.

    The intended scam would have meant that Pfizer would have become an Eire based corporation on paper, effectively reducing their US tax bill by billions of dollars.

    To achieve this, Obama had to close a taxation loophole, pity we can’t do something about our taxation loopholes but, with an election in the offing I can’t see Turnbull upsetting the big end of town or his own Cayman adventures ; better to just focus on the ABCC.

    Gunna miss Obama !

  3. Miriam English

    I was reading the other day about the corruption and monopolistic practices of the big telecommunications corporations in USA. A developer got fed up with not being able to get internet to the people whose homes he was building so he decided to do it himself. The big telecoms all ludicrously tried to sue him for doing what they refused to, but lost their suits. When asked later by a reporter how he was able to provide high speed internet for all those people at a fraction of the price the big corporations could, he smiled and pointed out that he doesn’t have to pay for dozens of lobbyists in Washington. This is one of the ways bribes hurt businesses and their customers. The bribes don’t just come out of thin air. They come out of customers’ pockets. We pay for them.

  4. Otto von Heidelberg

    Nothing is “…crippling the Economy” when unemployment is 5-6% (and growth is not exactly negative by quite a margin), apart from maybe the fact that we are hampered by the FIAT version of Broadband. [Fix It Again Tony…] which we are currently enjoying. Oh, buying expensive toys like Submarines don’t help much either because that means PAYING for them! However, we are assured there is plenty of money there for these Subs but none for childrens’ education and their Grannies health. What is not allowing the working people to get ahead in this country, is simply the fact that ” The Government” simply has NO IDEA as to how to GET OUT OF THE WAY!
    Why is this so to quote Prof. S. Miller(?) It is because the elected Government, with a ( now) non-elected Prime Minister, is trying very hard to distract the electorate so that they can get back in. It is this preoccupation and ONLY THIS which is of interest to the present Lower House. If this is not plain for all to see, even after breaking all their previous promises, then we ultimately get who we deserve.

  5. ImagiNation

    Capitalism. The more you deceive, the more you achieve.

  6. John

    All that expensive bi-partisan security legislation (and lovely ss style uniforms) was apparently to protect them from us, not us from them.

    I will be voting for whomever is proposing a federal ICAC.

  7. Kaye Lee

    I would highly recommend reading Annex 4 of the report (p60-63). Even though they don’t mention names, as most of the transgressions were reported in the media, google quickly fills in the blanks.

    “Gold Mining Case
    A gold mining company listed in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, was alleged to have bribed officials in a foreign country to secure development rights in a gold and copper mind. An NGO referred the allegations to the Australian Federal Police to investigate the allegations in October 2007. In 2008, the AFP finalised the investigation, because the alleged conduct took place before 1999 and the AFP received legal advice that there is no retrospective operation of the Australian foreign bribery offence.”

    How much police and Royal Commission time, not to mention parliamentary time, was spent investigating Julia Gillard’s involvement in setting up a union slush fund in 1992?

  8. ImagiNation

    I have often wondered how Julia would have performed if she didn’t have Abbott biting her heals every time she opened her mouth.

  9. Miriam English


    Capitalism. The more you deceive, the more you achieve.

    Unfortunately that is what many of its greatest proponents seem to believe. But, in the long run, it isn’t true. Capitalism could work really well if its fan club would let it do so. A healthy market runs on trust, and anybody can see that deception and bribery are poisonous to trust. Weird, isn’t it, that unbridled capitalism has such a nasty tendency to kill itself off?

    We need markets. They are far more efficient than centralised decisions at moving things like bread and computers and clothing around. But markets left to themselves tend to self-destruct. They need good, socially responsible, transparent regulation.

    There are also a lot of things markets are utterly hopeless at (for example health services, policing, firefighting, military, making encyclopedias, and many more).

    And some non-commercial services can actually improve the quality of market-driven services. See, for example, the quality of the work done under a miniscule budget by ABC and SBS, and the way they set the pace and quality for commercial media. If anybody thinks our commercial media are bad now, imagine how terrible they’d be without ABC and SBS to force them to lift their game. No Beyond Productions, no Working Dog Productions, no Seachange, no Four Corners, no international news… heavens! And they do it all far more efficiently than any of the commercial media do.

  10. ImagiNation

    While I respect your argument I must point out your keyword is ‘could’. The fact is ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. (who said that?)

  11. Miriam English

    ImagiNation, I agree completely. “Could” is certainly the operative word. It seems to me a great irony that those nitwits who are the market’s greatest fans are almost always the greatest obstacle to it working properly. It’s like that sign, “Lord, protect me from your followers.”

    The power corrupts quote? It was apparently first said by John Dalberg-Acton (1834–1902). The second part of the quote is almost never heard.

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

    Oh, and here is another pertinent quote which I love:

    Power corrupts — of course it does. That’s what it’s for.
    — Laurell K. Hamilton (in her novel “Caress of Twilight”)

  12. ImagiNation

    Miriam thank you. Shows my ignorance I had to google John Dalberg-Acton. I admit I have no idea of an alternative to capitalism but I fear it has become victim to manipulation by the immense wealth it created.

  13. Dennis Bauer

    I never liked Capitalism, because I never seen it work properly. and it has to me been starkly evident since I came back from Viet-nam.

    But it could be great for the human race if done with care and consideration for the planet and all on it.
    I have this feeling and I have had it a long time, but it is more evident as time goes on, that Capitalism is going to collapse.

    Any one in a position of power, are scrabbling for the position on the ladder, hence there are no rules, it’s a mad panic, by the time the normal people in the street wake up it will be to late, they will go into survival mode and out of the mayhem only the slaves will be left.

    We had a chance at Utopia but most of us being easily led failed to see it, and we should be the ones that count, so basically it’s the lower classes problem. We weren’t organized enough and we were easily fooled by all that glitters. In some strange way Marx helped the Powerful people, better than he could guide us.

    If there are no signs of any sort of recovery, as in honesty ,ethics , and just plain common sense, in the next 15 years it’s all over and were just slaves again, and I think a lot of people will be a lot happier, strangely enough.

  14. Zathras

    Smaller Government is just code for Bigger Corporations.

    As for the miracle of the free market – homelessness, suicide rates, the environment, crime, public health, education, worker exploitation – the market will fix all these things if the authorities just look the other way.

  15. ImagiNation

    Dennis Bauer perhaps a glance at may enlighten you as to how close the collapse you refer to really is….

  16. Kaye Lee

    Never forget, without labour, capitalism doesn’t work. People have forgotten the power of general strikes.

  17. ImagiNation

    isn’t it illegal to strike? it is to protest.

  18. Kaye Lee

    It’s not illegal to strike though they do have some conditions for what they call “protected industrial action”.

    But what are they going to do if we actually did have a general strike regardless of their rules? They are not going to penalise the entire workforce. A worker might lose a days pay….the owners of the capital would lose a shitload more.

  19. You can't be serious?

    Compare and contrast.
    It seems to me, the current Government where big (business) is concerned, is doing all it can, including huge funding cuts to ASIC and the ATO, to ensure that crime and corruption in private enterprise business dealings is not uncovered, or if uncovered is not investigated and if investigated, not prosecuted, despite actual evidence that it exists. If it is not uncovered etc, it does not exist. Problem solved and the ideology that private enterprise does whatever better than Government etc remains unchallenged!
    As far as Unions are concerned, no expense is spared (including yet another fruitless RC – costing $80m this time) to try and uncover the allegedly endemic Union crime and corruption that in reality, based on the evidence seems to exist mostly in the fevered imaginations of the Government and the IPA. And nothing whatsoever to do with discrediting Labor, perish the thought! 😉

  20. Miriam English

    ImagiNation, Dennis Bauer, Zathras, I’m no great fan of capitalism, though I do recognise it has brought us some very powerful benefits.

    I’m actually hoping for the day when money becomes irrelevant. At that point capitalism will have nothing to do and will just peter out. The Open Source movement has become an extremely effective alternative to capitalism. The good thing about it is that it is welcomed by capitalism because of its superior mechanisms for innovation and creating things. What capitalists don’t generally realise is that it is almost like a poison pill. The fact that the Open Source movement depends upon the ethos of sharing means that most of the methods capitalism uses to make money will eventually be useless. For example, you can’t use artificial scarcity by creating a bottleneck in the market if everybody is sharing.

    Be careful about being duped by the propaganda that surrounds us from the mainstream media. There is plenty to be outraged by, but as wonderful Kaye Lee points out we actually hold the power. Never forget that. They only have the power if they are able to convince us that we are powerless. They do that by filling us with despair and hopelessness. Let your anger fuel you with determination. Don’t let it burn you out.

    The mainstream media try to convince you that dishonesty, crime, violence, lack of concern for the environment, public health, are all worsening. They are not. It is a lie. For as long as we’ve kept records we know that crime and violence have trended downwards. People are more moral and caring than ever before in history. We are also smarter: the Flynn Effect shows that each generation is more intelligent than the one that preceded it. We now see and are outraged by the destruction of the environment. Not long ago it proceeded even more quickly than now and nobody cared because they called it progress. People now live longer, more healthy lives than ever before in history. We are members of a remarkably privileged people.

    We must stop the attempts by corrupt politicians to undo those advances. We must demand a federal ICAC. We absolutely must get money out of politics — it is poisoning and sickening it. The stench from the rot is disgusting. We must safeguard our society and our children and our planet from these traitors who pretend to be leaders, but who are attempting to drag us all backwards. That is not the direction we should be moving. We don’t want slavery. We need utopia. And for the first time in history it is actually within reach. Large scale automation can liberate us all from unnecessary work, Basic Income Guarantee (unconditional universal income) can free us to live our lives as we see fit, not some “master” wants us to. Renewable energy can alleviate much of the pressure upon our planet. The net can give us universal access to knowledge.

  21. Kaye Lee

    “each generation is more intelligent than the one that preceded it”

    Without googling the Flynn effect, my opinion is that we are what we are because of the generations who preceded us. We build on the platform they provide. When I was really little my father would write huge arithmetic questions for me to do with pen and paper. When I got to high school I learned the wonders of slide rules and log tables. After a few years, desk top adding machines turned into calculators you could fit into your pencil case. Before you knew it,we had scientific and engineering calculators that made my trig life a lot easier. When I was doing teacher training I used punch cards for computer programming and then progressed to BASIC. All this happenned in the space of 20 years.

    I have enormous admiration for our Indigenous ancestors who migrated to this country in the first place. How intelligent must they have been. How resilient and resourceful. How courageous.

  22. ImagiNation

    Well said!
    Another lie is the current fiasco about cashless society as a way to stop organised (why do spellchecks insist we use the US language and not our own?) crime. The truth of the matter is a cashless society is the only way the banksters can prevent a run on their banks. With the strategic collapse of the US economy imminent and the implementation of negative interest rates (a tax on savings) just around the corner, a cashless society is the only way they can see to prevent people withdrawing their money and hiding it under their mattress (google home safe sales in Japan). When you consider the repercussions of the ‘bail-in’ laws now entrenched by law in Australia, which mean when the banks fail again (which they will as the cause of the GFC has not been addressed) the first place the banksters raid is the deposits of their account holders. A win win so to speak.

    I agree we must unite and stop our federal US lackeys from destroying our country and our freedoms. We don’t need Lockheed Martin planes that don’t fly but we do need to properly educate our children and oppose the ‘dumming down of society’ (ask your children if they know their times tables) and access to adequate medical care not regulated by big pharma.

    We need to oppose the withdrawal of the right to protest and understand as stated in other posts, we have the power, not them and no matter how hard they try to convince us otherwise we outnumber them a thousandfold. Martin Bryant was never put on trial through lack of evidence but war criminal John Howard was successful in disarming the public. Wake up Australia!

  23. Miriam English

    Kaye, yes. We stand on the shoulders of those generations who go before us and hand us their knowledge. I weep for the loss of knowledge held by the first Australians. When I stand in the bush that I grew up in, it boggles my mind that people could live here in luxury. Remember that the Sydney suburb Manly was so named because of the very fine specimens of humanity that greeted Captain Cook. We know far more than our predecessors, but the loss of 60,000 years of knowledge through idiotic genocide appals me. Most of that knowledge is lost forever by shamefully extinguishing so many lives.

    The rapid pace of change is accelerating and doesn’t look like slowing any time soon. Those who are supposed to be our leaders are showing themselves to be completely lost in the face of such changes. It doesn’t matter. I half expect that they will be rendered irrelevant in the near future. We will ignore all the bastards. They’ll be able to carry on in their parliament and nobody will care. The real world will pay no attention. Until that time, however, we need to de-fang them — get rid of their sources of corruption.

  24. Wally

    When the Mayor of Melbourne (former state liberal leader) pays for $28,000 of personal expenses with his council credit card it is merely a mistake but when a Labor politician spends a few bucks on a union credit card he is prosecuted, victimised and …

    The way our country is being governed makes me wonder how many people have a license to commit corporate/government crimes? A bloody lot of people get away with theft and are never made to answer for their crimes.

  25. Dennis Bauer

    Wow Kaye Lee, your way up there with me now, I respect you, thank you. And you also Miriam English, Thank you it’s nice to
    read some wisdom. I used to feel really alone once, but my world is changing since the advent of the aimn.

  26. The AIM Network

    Thank you, Dennis. It means a lot to us to hear that.

  27. John Lord

    Yes indeed Dennis Bauer.

  28. Kaye Lee


    I think we all feel the same about the AIMN. It is heartening to discuss issues with people who are interested in truth and looking for better ways. The AIMN family keeps me sane in an increasingly insane world. So thanks to all of you 🙂

  29. Kaye Lee

    From the 2015 OECD update….

    “the Working Group remained critical of Australia’s use of suppression orders in relation to current prosecutions, commenting that such orders were a serious obstacle to in-depth discussion and monitoring of Australia’s implementation of the Anti-Bribery Convention.

    The recent (and anticipated) increase in Australia’s anti-bribery efforts are a timely reminder that liability for foreign bribery offences under the Criminal Code 1985 (Cth) can be attributed to a body corporate that has failed to promote a culture of compliance or promoted a culture of non-compliance with the anti-bribery provisions.”

  30. mick

    It never gets any better. We currently have a big business government where the coalition government looks the other way. Turnbull may have shaken the finger at the Commonwealth Bank when it committed fraud but NO LEGISLATION. Worse than that he got in front of the cameras refuting a Royal Commission in the financial services industry and was then supported by the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank (agreeing that no point) and the Head of the Business Council (also spouting the same BS).
    It’s a club and this government is the leader. So by definition: if a government allows corruption to flourish in big business then it also is complicit and corrupt.
    We need an election….and voters need to stop believing what the big business owned and controlled media is saying as much of the ‘news’, for want of another word, is simply propaganda.
    Bring on the election!

  31. mick

    And while I have the stage: please inform readers about the bail in laws which have been snuck in, signed off by Hockey and then hidden lest the public is stampeded. These laws will result in people who have money in the big banks having it (legally) confiscated/stolen. That should be BIG news but it has not received a mention from what I can recall. I wonder why.

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