The Attorney General's Department (AGD) yesterday held its final public consultation on the National Anti-Corruption Plan with representatives from the business community, academia, advocacy groups (such as Transparency International and Oxfam) and professional advisers.

The AGD expects to release the Plan later this year, and that the Plan will specifically contemplate ongoing consultation with the community and review of the Plan's effectiveness.

The AGD will also shortly publish the 19 submissions it has previously received on the Plan. These submissions will be taken into account in developing the Plan, as well as the results of the UNCAC and OECD's review of Australia's implementation of international anti-corruption conventions.

A key input from today's session was that there needs to be a better enunciation of the precise corruption risks faced in Australia, in order that the Plan may be appropriately tailored to address those risks.

In relation to overseas risks, Caroline Cox, Freehills Partner, presented on how government and business can work together to combat foreign bribery. She identified the following three aspects to a successful partnership in the Australian context.

  • the first is for the government to continue working with businesses to increase awareness of anti-corruption laws and the scope of their application, including through formal guidance on key issues such as gifts and hospitality, the scope of the 'foreign public official' definition, appropriate 'due diligence' systems and successor liability in the M&A context. Such guidance will allow companies to appropriately focus their compliance efforts and ensure they are not unnecessarily curbing legitimate business activities,
  • the second is engaging in an ongoing dialogue on the implications for companies resisting corruption, and assisting companies where possible with the practical challenges they are facing, including by facilitating collective action by industry leaders and working with foreign governments to remove the risks, and
  • the third is providing companies with transparency as to the process and ramifications of self reporting in the event that corruption issues are identified.

Today's forum was a significant initiative by the AGD in encouraging an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, and was a further step towards achieving the twin objectives of combating corruption and ensuring a level playing field for Australian businesses both domestically and overseas.