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Combatting foreign bribery

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP
Media Release

The Albanese Government is cracking down on foreign bribery by Australian companies by removing barriers to investigations and prosecutions.

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Foreign Bribery) Bill 2023 will strengthen the legal framework for prosecuting foreign bribery.

Foreign bribery is a serious and insidious problem across the world. It harms communities by increasing the cost and reducing the quality of goods and services. Bribery by Australians and Australian businesses damages our international standing and undermines the rule of law, and can shrink the global market for Australian exports.

As a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, Australia is required to ensure that our laws are effective in holding natural and legal persons to account for foreign bribery. The measures in this Bill have been carefully developed and targeted to address these issues to ensure our legislative framework adequately deters and punishes the corrupt practice of foreign bribery.

The Bill creates a new offence for corporations that fail to prevent foreign bribery, which carries a maximum penalty of $27.5 million or higher.

This measure holds companies directly liable for the foreign bribery activities of their employees, external contractors, agents and subsidiaries, unless the business can demonstrate that they had adequate procedures in place.

Key measures of this Bill are substantially the same as the Turnbull Government’s Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Corporate Crime) Bill 2017 and the Morrison Government’s Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Corporate Crime) Bill 2019.

On both occasions – across two Parliaments and over a period of five years – the previous government introduced Bills to strengthen the legal framework for prosecuting foreign bribery and on both occasions those Bills were allowed to lapse.

Neither Bill was put to a vote, despite the measures like those contained in Schedule 1 of this Bill enjoying bipartisan support over many years.

The Combatting Foreign Bribery Bill enhances Australia’s response to foreign bribery and demonstrates this Government’s commitment to combatting foreign bribery and ensuring our laws are effective in detecting, investigating and prosecuting foreign bribery.