Privatising Asic’s data will hinder scrutiny of corporate wrongdoing

Nearly 40,000 Australians are calling on the Turnbull government to stop the privatisation of Asic’s corporate registry, warning it will jeopardise the ability of journalists and academics to investigate corporate wrongdoing.
They say the registry privatisation represents an “all-out attack” on corporate transparency in Australia, because journalists and academics are already forced to pay some of the highest fees in the world to access corporate data and those fees will get worse if the registry is run by a for-profit corporation.
The leftwing activist group GetUp has collected almost 40,000 signatures since Sunday in a last-ditch attempt to convince the federal government to stop the sale going ahead.

Selling off Asic’s trove of company data ‘would hinder tax enforcement’

 Read more

Asic’s corporate registry is a critical database of information on more than two million companies in Australia, including business names, histories, financial records and backgrounds of directors.
It can be used by the public to search millions of companies – and their documents – not listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. Only about 2,000 companies are listed on the ASX.
Masterclasses

Perfect your presentation and media skills

Perfect your presentation and media skills

Wednesday, 9 November, Sydney

Click here

It has been central to efforts to expose the tax avoidance habits of private companies. It also provides records needed to investigate cases of money laundering, financing terrorism, labour exploitation and human trafficking.
The Abbott government announced plans in its 2015-16 budget to undertake a competitive tender process for Asic’s registry business, believing it would be better run in private hands.

The stories you need to read, in one handy email

 Read more

The Turnbull government is pushing ahead with those plans, with final bids for the tender process due on 29 August.
The government says it will retain ownership of the data once the registry is sold, but software upgrades of the register will be undertaken by its private owner.
The sale is supported by Greg Medcraft, the Asic chairman.
Natalie O’Brien, GetUp’s economic campaigns director, says if the registry is privatised it will make it even harder to investigate illicit and unethical activities of business.
“Journalists and academics routinely run out of money to purchase more financial statements to properly investigate a particular company or industry,” O’Brien said.

Multinational tax avoidance cost Australia $6bn in 2014, Oxfam report claims

 Read more

“If the database is run by a for-profit corporation, not only will it entrench this abysmal status quo, we’ll see costs rise and additional access barriers may be created. That means less transparency, less corporate accountability.
Advertisement
“Everyday people know that corporations need more scrutiny, not less. Otherwise we are all the poorer,” said O’Brien.
Kelly O’Dwyer, the minister for revenue and financial services, told Guardian Australia the government will consider the final bids “before making a decision on any further steps.”
Last week, more than 20 civil society organisations and unions sent a letter to the treasurer, Scott Morrison, asking him to stop the registry from being privatised.
They said the Panama Papers scandal demonstrated that governments needed to take action against shell companies with concealed ownership, and the corporate watchdog’s registry of business data must remain in government hands to help in that fight.
“The Asic corporate register is currently relied upon by law enforcement agencies, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Tax Office, in identifying company ownership and location,” the letter said.
“Placing this register in private hands risks undermining a range of law enforcement activities as well as Australia’s attempts to curb money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.”
The Australian Council of Social Service, the Tax Justice Network, the Uniting church, and GetUp!, were among those who signed the letter.
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/aug/25/privatising-asics-data-will-hinder-scrutiny-of-corporate-wrongdoing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s