Submission: Beneficial Ownership

20 March 2017

Transparency International Australia supports the creation of a central register to record beneficial ownership information.

It submits that:

  • The 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 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, that the definition of “beneficial owner” from Australia’s anti-money laundering framework should be preferred.

Transparency International Australia acknowledges that there may be obstacles in implementing the central 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 register is implemented. There is value and a need to have a central 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 while ensuring that the system would continuously improve. Taking these first steps to implement a central 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.