THE FEDERAL Government will release an exposure draft on anti-money laundering reform next month, but it may miss a key deadline.
A spokesperson for Senator Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs, could not say whether the draft would be released in time for the 10 October plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at which Australia’s AML progress will be assessed.
“It’s uncertain at this stage — there’s not a date set, but it will come out in October,” the spokesperson said. “Whether it’s before or after [the FATF plenary meeting to discuss Australia’s current AML regime] we’re not sure.”
Experts have long been concerned that failure to produce some kind of exposure draft before the meeting could foster a negative assessment which could impact Australia’s global standing. But according to a source close to the legislative process, the Government is not concerned.
“At the end of the day, yes, we’ve been compliant in the past — we’ve been at the vanguard as a country — but we’re not blindly obsessed with being number one in the world as an academic exercise,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “We are certainly going to move towards complying with [the FATF 40 recommendations on anti-money laundering] but we don’t see the need to suddenly panic and say ‘oh my god, what will FATF say? We’re going to get a fail mark, what should we do?’”
The source also revealed that there will be a phased rollout of the legislation. Initially, the Government was set to publish the exposure draft, but decided to delay and undertake further consultation.
The Government had originally planned to release the exposure draft, the source said, but had decided instead to continue consultation using a version of the draft without actually releasing it.
“In that process we looked more at rollout,” the source continued. “We’ll start with essentially those groups that are already covered — they know all about it and we can have educated conversations with them. Other groups are saying ‘what’s this all about, what is AML?’. So we started with the ones that have identified AML as a risk. We’ve concluded that consultation with that sector now. We’ve also had conversations with accountants, but there is more to come on that. It’s more doing the little bits and pieces. Then we’ll come out with the draft, but again we’ll say it’s the second round of consultation and hopefully we’ll have a better draft.”