Senator Dean Smith
Shadow Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury
Liberal Senator for Western Australia
27 July 2023
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS FOLLOWING FIRST HEARING OF PERTH MINT INQUIRY
Reports delivered at one minute to midnight, no indication of a timeframe for resolution, or whether financial penalties will apply at the taxpayers’ expense were all revealed at the first hearing of a Senate probe into The Perth Mint and Australia’s anti-money laundering regime.
Witnesses giving evidence in Canberra included some members of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce, the Reserve Bank of Australia, Attorney-General’s Department and AUSTRAC.
The RBA gave its evidence privately ‘in camera’ – with only Inquiry members and officials present.
The hearing was chaired by Senator Dean Smith, who secured Greens and crossbench support to launch the Inquiry in June.
Senator Smith noted two observations from the WA Auditor General’s October 2022 report Compliance Frameworks for Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-terrorism Financing Obligations – firstly that non-compliance with obligations risked reputational damage and financial consequences to the State, and secondly that two entities had failed to resolve past issues identified by AUSTRAC.
Asked if these were all characteristics of Gold Corporation, which runs The Perth Mint, the AUSTRAC representative noted that was an assumption that could be made.
Significantly, AUSTRAC told the hearing it was unable to give a timeframe for finalisation of the Gold Corporation matter.
And it would not rule out the possibility of financial repercussions for the State-owned business, the cost of which may ultimately be borne by WA taxpayers.
AUSTRAC did reinforce its expectation that any findings of non-compliance should be shared at the highest levels of an organisation, including its risk and audit committee, board and chairman, and that this would apply to Gold Corporation like it would any other operator.
Senator Smith also queried whether the independent auditor’s report into Gold Corporation ordered by AUSTRAC was received on time, as it appeared the report was submitted a day late – and on a Saturday.
AUSTRAC clarified it was received after midnight in Canberra, meaning shortly before deadline in WA, despite an extension of time having already been granted.
WA Senators Dorinda Cox, who is the Inquiry’s Deputy Chair, Linda Reynolds, Fatima Payman and Glenn Sterle also participated.
A date for a public hearing in Perth, at which The Perth Mint is expected to be called as a witness, will be set in coming days.
Submissions to the Inquiry close on 1 August and it is due to report by 13 December.
Comments attributable to Senator Dean Smith:
“Today’s hearing raised more questions than it answered in terms of how long The Perth Mint matter could last and how much it could cost the people of WA.”
“AUSTRAC especially made it very clear that the bar is set high when it comes to compliance and that standard absolutely applies to Gold Corporation.”
“Getting to the bottom of what did or did not happen at The Mint is essential to WA’s national and international reputation.”
“The Inquiry, which includes my WA Senate colleagues from across the Parliament, will continue to work in a bipartisan way to give this issue the close scrutiny it deserves.”
“When the Inquiry moves to Perth, I expect the full co-operation of Gold Corporation and the WA Government – right up to Premier Roger Cook.”