Further foreign bribery reforms proposed by the Federal Opposition

The Australian Labor Party has announced that the Federal Government's proposed reforms to Australia's foreign bribery laws are insufficient and, under a Labor Government, has promised to further overhaul Australia’s response to corporate bribery by:

  1. Removing the facilitation payment defence, which currently allows companies to make small, tax-deductible bribes;
  2. Introducing a debarment regime to ban companies engaged in bribery from Federal Government contracts;
  3. Demanding any Deferred Prosecution Agreement regime is tough on companies breaking the law; and
  4. Establishing a national anti-bribery regime to ensure our federal law outlaws public and private bribery.

Labor recently highlighted these further areas as requiring reform and said it would consult on whether the currently proposed ‘failure to prevent’ offence in relation to foreign bribery should be extended to other business and human rights offences or corporate crime offences (for example, a failure to prevent child labour, slavery or AML/CTF offences). Labor will also explore the possible introduction of penalties for companies that fail to report serious corporate human rights abuses or bribery offences.

Political division over possible National Integrity Commission

On 23 May 2018, Australia media sources reported that political support over a possible National Integrity Commission remains divided. The Coalition has now given a strong indication that it will not set up a federal independent commission against corruption, stating that there is no “persuasive evidence” that current methods of tackling corruption are insufficient. This confirmation follows earlier indications in January 2018 from the Australian Labor Party that it would establish a national integrity commission if elected.

Government confirms modern slavery reporting legislation to be introduced

The Federal Government has confirmed it will introduce legislation by mid-2018 to enact a Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act, which will establish a modern slavery reporting requirement. The reporting requirement would require more than 3,000 large corporations and other entities to publish annual public statements on their actions to address modern slavery in their supply chains and operations. The Government would establish a public central repository to ensure that the statements published by all reporting entities are easily accessible. To ensure the reporting requirement is implemented effectively, the Government has committed $3.6 million through the Federal Budget to establish a new Anti-Slavery Business Engagement Unit in the Department of Home Affairs.

Whistleblower complaints to go public under new South Australian law

A Bill allowing whistleblowers to go public with alleged misconduct within South Australian government ranks will be tabled in South Australia's parliament. The legislation, which complements shield laws for journalists introduced recently, gives whistleblowers the option to go public if their complaint has not been investigated within three months. The new Bill comes after the Liberal government recently introduced separate legislation to shield journalists from criminal or civil liability if they do not disclose the identity of their sources when the information is in the public interest.