Media Release: Australia’s stagnation on global corruption ranking reinforces need for quality reform

29 January 2019

Transparency International’s landmark annual report has put Australia in 13thplace. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide. It assesses the level of public sector corruption in each of the world’s 180 countries according to data sources from expert independent institutions.


‘Over the past seven years, Australia has slipped 8 points in Transparency International’s global ranking.’ Transparency International Australia CEO, Serena Lillywhite said.


‘Australia used to rank among the top ten least-corrupt countries. We fell out of the league of world-leading nations back in 2014 and continuously fail to lift our game.


‘The perception of experts mirror that of ordinary Australians: our survey found an alarming level of declining trust in our elected representatives. 85 per cent of Australians now think at least “some” federal politicians are corrupt.


‘Despite these worrying downward trends, Australia has not done enough to inject much-needed accountability and transparency into our politics.


‘The theme of this year’s CPI report focuses on democracy because of the strong correlation between corruption and autocracy. When our democratic institutions are transparent and accountable, our democracy is healthy and robust.


‘The strong message that resonates throughout Transparency International’s analysis is that to control corruption, governments the world over need to strengthen the institutions that provide democratic checks and balances and protect people’s rights.


‘Strengthening our democracy must be a priority for 2019. It is great that most of our parliament now supports some form of national anti-corruption agency, but theGovernment’s proposed model does not go far enough. The National Integrity Bills proposed by Cathy McGowan MP provide a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to addressing issues of parliamentary integrity and preventing, detecting, investigating and disclosing corruption.’


‘Now is the time, without delay and political wrangling, for our Federal Parliament to come together and create a well-resourced, nationally coordinated pro-integrity framework, with an emphasis on prevention alongside strong investigative powers.’


For more information on Transparency International Australia’s views on best practice for a national anti-corruption and integrity framework, please find our recent submission to the National Integrity Commission bills.

Media Release: Critical first step to strengthening integrity

13 December 2018

Transparency International Australia welcomes the Government’s announcement of a Commonwealth Integrity Commission, but calls for stronger powers to fight corruption and improve transparency.

Transparency International Australia’s CEO, Serena Lillywhite said, ‘we have long called for a federal agency to fight corruption and strengthen the integrity of our public officials. This is a critical step to rebuilding trust in the institutions of our democracy.

‘We are pleased the Government has accepted the evidence that we need a national integrity agency, and we look forward to working with government and the Federal Parliament to advance this important reform.

‘It is important that Australia adopts the best model for the new commission so that we don’t end up with a toothless tiger.’

TIA Chair, Fiona McLeod SC said, ‘we look forward to seeing more detail on how the coordination role will work and how the commission will be empowered and resourced to prevent corruption. It is important that any new offence of corruption under the Commonwealth Criminal Code be carefully designed.

‘The new commission should have a strong coordination role for all agencies and the power to hold public hearings for all matters where it is in the public interest to do so.

‘We would like the new integrity regime to also include parliamentary standards for elected officials and their staff, and good mechanisms for the public and whistleblowers to provide information or make complaints.’



Media Release: Light at the End of the Tunnel for Whistleblowers

5 December 2018

Transparency International Australia welcomes urgently needed amendments to Australia’s corporate whistleblower protection laws, due for debate in the Senate today, and calls on all parties to bring on the debate and support their passage.

Transparency International Australia has worked with the community, with the Coalition Government and crossbench MPs on sound improvements to legislation to support whistleblowers. The proposed legislation will now allow corporate whistleblowers to go public, relatively simply, if a regulator fails to act within 90 days.

‘This is the long overdue first step towards ensuring whistleblowers receive the support and protection they deserve when they lift the lid on corruption and dodgy deals in the private sector’, said Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia.

‘The importance of this legislation cannot be ignored. It’s a wakeup call for companies, and it will help ensure regulators do their job.

‘For far too long whistleblowers in Australia have been left to hang out to dry, often at immense personal cost to their health, their wellbeing and their careers, for simply doing the right thing and exposing wrongdoing.

‘Without the brave actions of whistleblowers like Jeff Morris, we may never have had the Banking Royal Commission. Without the actions of James Shelton and Brian Hood, we may never have known of Australia’s biggest corruption scandal – the bribery of foreign officials by the Reserve Bank subsidiaries Securency and Note Printing Australia – to win lucrative currency printing contracts.

‘James Shelton and Brian Hood’s long ordeal to seek justice in Australia’s biggest corruption scandal demonstrates the need for compensation.

‘There is more to be done, as recommended by last year’s Parliamentary Joint Committee.

‘These laws have to be shown to work, protection for public sector whistleblowers is lagging, and we need a whistleblower protection authority to support all public and private sector whistleblowers, and ensure these remedies are real.

‘The recent case of Rebecca Connor is another case in point.  The New South Wales Department of Planning sacked Ms Connor, a senior planning manager, allegedly for raising concerns about corruption linked to Hunter mine titles and approvals in 2017.’

‘The amendments to overhaul protection for corporate employees will help ensure Australian companies conduct their activities legally and with integrity, both in their Australian operations and abroad,’ said Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of Transparency International Australia.

‘The amendments will provide stronger legal protection in cases where a whistleblower contacts the media.

‘Now, companies face the world’s first ever requirement to not simply have a policy on paper, but spell out exactly how they plan to “support and protect” those who speak up, before anyone starts taking out reprisals.

‘Those who choose to be a whistleblower will never have an easy ride, but these new rules will provide much needed support for whistleblowers, and another legal driver for responsible business conduct and for corporate transparency and accountability.’

Media Release: Failure to combat foreign bribery demonstrates need for federal anti-corruption agency

28 November 2018


The Supreme Court of Victoria has fined Securency and Note Printing Australia, who pleaded guilty, for their role in foreign bribery. However, no directors will be held to account for these shocking events because the case was bungled by law enforcement agencies.


‘A fortnight ago the High Court found the former senior executives of Securency and Note Printing Australia, former subsidiaries of the Reserve Bank, cannot be prosecuted, not now, not ever, despite their alleged involvement in the corruption scandal that has dragged on for almost 10 years,’ said Transparency International Australia CEO, Serena Lillywhite.


‘Australia’s reputation to combat bribery and corruption is in tatters.’


‘It is outrageous that no one will go to jail for bribery, simply because the AFP failed to properly collect and handle evidence, conducting the investigation in both an incompetent and unlawful way.’


‘These decisions are a slap in the face for the two whistleblowers who bravely sounded the alarm when they suspected millions of dollars in bribes had been paid to a middleman with a reputation for corrupt conduct and relationships with arms dealers.’


‘For years, Transparency International Australia has held out hope that for the first time in Australia, the AFP would successfully hold company directors to account for bribing a foreign official. This now raises serious questions about the capacity of the Australian criminal justice system to handle complex financial crime.’

‘The OECD has examined the delays that have dogged this prosecution, along with delays involving other investigations by the AFP into similar offences. The OECD has long told us to get on with it and get a better anti-corporate corruption system.


Transparency International Australia Chair, Fiona McLeod SC said, ‘this demonstrates once again that the Australian Government needs to establish a national anti-corruption agency with broad investigative powers and oversight. We need a strong and coordinated approach – not this patchwork of inadequately resourced regulatory and enforcement agencies that lack the cohesion to seriously tackle corruption and integrity issues.’


‘We have been proud to work with all parties in our federal parliament, who are taking strong action to bring forward a federal anti-corruption agency. We hope that the Government and Opposition support this bill to create a federal anti-corruption agency.’

Media Release: Latest corruption scandal demonstrates need for national anti-corruption watchdog

26 November 2018


‘Fairfax’s latest investigation demonstrates the Australian Government’s alarming lack of capacity to effectively combat corruption,’ said Transparency International Australia CEO, Serena Lillywhite.


‘The latest allegations that a corrupt Border Force official was helping criminal gangs traffic drugs – and that the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement (ACLEI) knew this but could not effectively prosecute him – is truly worrying.


‘The Fairfax investigation demonstrates the current anti-corruption regime is just not fit for purpose and is leaving all Australians at risk of serious security threats.


‘If the ACLEI is unable to effectively expose major corruption, then who can?


‘The ACLEI must have the budget, the staff and the full support of the Australian Federal Police and other agencies to carry out investigations and conduct public inquiries to make sure these cases are exposed and the necessary action taken.


‘There are currently too many gaps and a lack of coordination and resourcing across government agencies to tackle corruption effectively.


‘Federal crossbench parliamentarians will today introduce simple and comprehensive legislation to establish a federal level anti-corruption agency.


‘The new agency proposed by the Independents would help plug the gaps that are allowing crime to flourish and ensure better coordination across government agencies.


‘It’s time for all sides of politics to prioritise this, work together and agree to a broad-based and independent national anti-corruption watchdog that takes a strong, comprehensive and coordinated approach to preventing and combatting serious and systemic corruption.’

Media Release: Wheels are in motion for a federal anti-corruption watchdog

22 November 2018

Transparency International Australia welcomes Cathy McGowan MP’s framework for a new federal anti-corruption agency, announced today.


‘We have been honoured to work closely with Cathy McGowan, Rebekha Sharkie, Andrew Wilkie and other cross-benchers on the thinking and drafting of the new anti-corruption and integrity framework,’ said Transparency International Australia CEO, Serena Lillywhite


‘Transparency International Australia has campaigned for a federal anti-corruption agency since 2005.


‘Our research has found falling public trust and confidence in all levels of government. More than two-thirds of Australians support the creation of an anti-corruption watchdog.


‘We have been speaking with all sides of the political spectrum to push for a solution which brings greater transparency, accountability and integrity across our government, including strong investigations, strong prevention, strong parliamentary standards, and strong whistle-blower protection.


Our National Integrity System Assessment Options Paper, authored by board member Professor AJ Brown, presented three options for building a national integrity commission.


‘We strongly advised option 3 – a comprehensive and independent agency, with prevention and enforcement functions and strong powers to report publicly, as well as the creation of a long overdue whistle-blower protection authority, parliamentary codes of conduct and a parliamentary standards commissioner.


‘We are pleased to see Cathy McGowan has agreed with our analysis in the simple but comprehensive plan she is now proposing.


‘While there is more work to do to address lobbying and political donations, Cathy McGowan’s proposal sets up the machinery to combat bribery and corruption and build a culture of integrity among parliamentarians, their staff and public servants.


‘We call on all parties to progress these Bills next week and bring a strong anti-corruption and integrity framework to fruition before the next election.


‘Our elected representatives must stand united against corruption.’

Media Release: Australia dragging its feet on tackling money-laundering

25 October 2018

Recent reports indicate the Australian Government will not introduce much-awaited laws to tackle money-laundering, but instead introduce technical tweaks to current legislation. As the Government reviews the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act, Transparency International Australia urges Parliamentarians to take a strong stance against laundered money and illicit flows.


Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia said, ‘Transparency International’s global research, Doors Wide Open, found Australia to be one of the most attractive destination for dirty money, especially through the property market.


‘While Australia regulates its major money-laundering and terrorism financing channels, such as banking, remittance and gaming; non-financial businesses and professions, such as real estate agents, lawyers and accountants, are still not subject to anti-money laundering/counter-terrorist financing requirements.


‘Investment in Australian property is an easy and convenient way to hide hundreds of millions of dollars from criminal investigators, tax authorities or others tracking criminal behaviour and the proceeds of crime.’


To turn off the tap on these illicit flows, the Government needs to


  • Include non-financial businesses – such as real-estate agents, lawyers and accountants, to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act.
  • Establish a public register of Beneficial Ownership, including trusts, to ensure real estate agents, lawyers and conveyancers, as well as accountants undertake Customer Due Diligence to discover the ultimate beneficiaries, and submit Suspicious Transactions Reports to AUSTRAC.
  • Improve the working relationships between different actors involved in anti-money laundering to better share important information as money flows between countries of origin, transit countries, and destination countries.
  • Banks and other financial institutions must treat Politically Exposed Persons (individuals who hold a prominent public function) as high-risk and apply enhanced due diligence.
  • When facilitators fail to meet their obligations, authorities should impose appropriate sanctions, from fines and de-licensing of companies to prosecution of individuals.


Serena Lillywhite said, ‘money-laundering is a global problem. Every nation needs to play its part in closing the loopholes that allow criminals to enrich themselves at the expense of the community.’


The ease with which dirty money is laundered in the Australian property market was recently highlighted at the world’s leading anti-corruption conference, the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Copenhagen (October 22-24).


‘As a go-to destination for dirty money, Australia must play its role in turning off the tap of illicit flows, often the proceeds of crime and corruption.


‘Money-laundering has a direct impact on people in both poor and wealthy countries. These illicit funds hinder economic growth and help perpetuate conflict around the world. They often end up invested in Western property markets and luxury goods.’


TIA’s national conference in April 2019 will put this issue once again on the agenda. A key conference theme will explore money laundering through the Australian property market.

Media Release: Transparency International Australia welcomes new Chair

15 October 2018


Transparency International Australia welcomes Fiona McLeod SC as the new Board Chair.


‘I warmly welcome Fiona to the leadership of our Board. We are grateful to have her extensive experience in, and lifelong commitment to, promoting justice, accountability and transparency,’ said Transparency International Australia CEO, Serena Lillywhite.


‘I am delighted to have been chosen to Chair of the Board of Transparency International Australia,’ said Fiona McLeod.


‘It is an honour to work for such an important organisation dedicated to tackling corruption and promoting good governance.


‘By improving transparency and strengthening accountability, we tackle the root causes of many of the social, political and environmental challenges confronting the world today.


‘I look forward to supporting Transparency International Australia as it goes from strength to strength.’


Fiona McLeod SC is the Co-Chair of the Open Government Forum and Chair of the Accountability Round Table.

She is a Past President of the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Bar Association; she was Chair of the Victorian Bar and President of Australian Women Lawyers.

Ms McLeod has been recognised with numerous awards for excellence and leadership, for her work in supporting diversity and equality, the advancement of women and her work in pro bono and human rights matters including human trafficking.

Ms McLeod was inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll for Women in 2014 and is a recipient of numerous professional awards including the prestigious inaugural Commonwealth Government Anti-Slavery Australia Freedom Award for her work representing victims of human trafficking, raising awareness and contributing to law reform and policy on this issue.

Media release: Growing body of evidence demonstrates need for a federal anti-corruption and integrity agency.

24 September 2018


Transparency International Australia welcomes the Grattan Institute’s latest report, Who’s in the room? Access and influence in Australian politics.


‘There is a growing body of evidence that our political system is too exposed to corruption risk and integrity failings.’ said Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia.


‘The Grattan Institute’s report reinforces the calls we have long made: we need an independent federal anti-corruption and integrity agency with the powers to investigate, including breaches of the federal Code of Conduct, and greater checks and balances against unfair influence.


‘The Grattan Institute report builds on our research that found the majority of Australians responding to the Global Corruption Barometer survey had either seen, or suspected, politicians or government officials favouring businesses or powerful individuals in return for political donations or support.


‘Our research found people working for government, our public servants, have even higher concerns about undue influence driving policy and government decision- making.


‘Transparency International’s research into the mining approvals process in Queensland and Western Australia also confirmed corruption risks from inappropriate and unregulated political influence.


‘Lobbying, the revolving door between government and industry and a culture of mateship that facilitates deals between friends, all leave the approvals processes around mining licenses and related infrastructure vulnerable to corruption.


‘We welcome the Grattan Institute’s calls for greater transparency and accountability, particularly a federal anti-corruption agency.’


Media contact: Alex Lamb 0466 976 602

New Discussion Paper: A National Integrity Commission – Options for Australia

On 21 August 2018 Griffith University researchers published a new discussion paper, A National Integrity Commission – Options for Australia at the National Integrity Systems Symposium in Canberra.

TI Australia is a lead partner in the Australian Research Council project – Strengthening Australia’s National Integrity Systems – Priorities for Reform, and this Options Paper provides new evidence that significant reform of our national integrity framework is needed.

TI Australia has long called for the establishment of a comprehensive, broad based anti-corruption agency at a federal level – with the scope, investigative and coercive powers necessary to combat bribery and corruption and to build an integrity framework, and to both prevent and detect the ‘grey areas’ of misconduct and integrity breaches at a national level.

This Options Paper provides some real solutions to real problems – problems that have been addressed by community response to the Global Corruption Barometer Survey.

The Options Paper provides the evidence to support the creation of a new federal anti-corruption and integrity framework, based on an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing framework, and community
awareness, perception, and views on how well corruption is being addressed at all levels of government.

Read TIA CEO Serena Lillywhite’s full response to the options paper in her speech delivered at the National Integrity Systems Symposium on 21 August.

The full A National Integrity Commission – Options for Australia paper is available for download on Griffith University website, where you can also find a summary version.