MEDIA RELEASE

29 February 2024

Australia to crack down on foreign bribery

Transparency International Australia welcomes the passing of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Foreign Bribery) Bill 2023. These historic and overdue reforms are critical to strengthen Australia’s anti-corruption framework to crack down on Australian companies engaging in foreign bribery.

Foreign bribery is the most direct and damaging form of corruption and can corrupt government decision making, divert investment for public services and enable serious crimes like human trafficking and money laundering.

“In almost 25 years, only seven individuals and three corporations in Australia have been convicted of foreign bribery. This is the just the tip of the iceberg so these laws are long overdue.”

“Australian miners in Africa, government contractors in PNG and Nauru, a leading environmental company in China all allegedly paying bribes and kickbacks to middlemen and politicians with apparent impunity.”

“So we welcome these strong laws which should also be welcomed by law enforcement, the Australian community and businesses” said Clancy Moore, CEO Transparency International Australia.

As outlined in Transparency International’s Exporting Corruption 2022 report and by the OECD Working Group on Bribery, Australia has long had a poor level of enforcement.

The new laws introduce a game changing failure to prevent offence and will also mean company executives will need adequate procedures and compliance programs in place to prevent the risk of foreign bribery across their operations. Other improvements include extending the bribery offence to include a personal gain, as well as attempting to influence candidates for political office, and new penalties.

“To make our laws even stronger the government could have considered introducing greater incentives for companies to self-report thorough Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) scheme like the US and UK. Importantly, any future DPA scheme must not be a get out of jail free card for companies.”

“Other measures such as publishing statistics on foreign bribery investigations, a debarment scheme so companies convicted of foreign bribery cannot receive government contracts and the removal of facilitation payments defence would make our laws even stronger.”

More Information:

View the legislation here: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r7055

View TI Australia’s submission into the inquiry here: https://transparency.org.au/submission-inquiry-into-crimes-legislation-amendment-combatting-foreign-bribery-bill-2023/

View TI’s Exporting Corruption 2022 report here: https://transparency.org.au/exporting-corruption-2022/

The previous Coalition government had two attempts to amend the Foreign Bribery laws in 2019 and 2017 but both pieces of legislation were left in the Senate:

See OECD Working Group on Foreign Bribery reports on Australia here:
https://www.oecd.org/australia/australia-oecdanti-briberyconvention.htm

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