TI Australia supports the creation of a central new corporate register to record beneficial ownership information. It submits that:
- The new corporate register should be publicly available (open access) to increase opportunities for the public to verify and provide information and that the beneficial ownership information should be free of charge.
- The central new corporate register could be maintained by either AUSTRAC or ASIC due to those agencies’ ability to collect information and to enforce against companies that fail to report information.
- If there is any difficulty with defining the “beneficial owner” of a company, the definition of “beneficial owner” from Australia’s anti-money laundering framework should be preferred.
TI Australia acknowledges that there may be obstacles in implementing the central new corporate register including ensuring that trusts would duly report beneficial ownership information and ensuring that accurate information is collected and verified.
However, in light of the need for greater transparency, Australia cannot, nor should it, afford to wait for the perfect system before the central new corporate register is implemented. There is value and a need to have a central new corporate register of beneficial ownership in Australia – similar to the United Kingdom’s register of ‘People with Significant Control’ – such a register could be implemented in progressive stages ensuring that the system would continuously improve.
Taking these first steps to implement a central new corporate register would ensure that Australia complies with its international commitments to increase transparency and could have a beneficial flow on effect to minimising corruption and tackling illicit financial activities.
Click here to read TI Australia’s Submission on Increasing transparency of the beneficial ownership of companies.