OECD blasts Australia over foreign bribery cases

INTERNATIONAL examiners have savaged Australia’s enforcement of foreign bribery laws and highlighted extensive failures in the handling of our only foreign bribery prosecution to date: the Reserve Bank companies’ corruption scandal.

”The lead examiners are concerned that the AFP may have closed foreign bribery cases before thoroughly investigating the allegations,” a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says.

The report says Australian businesses were highly exposed to foreign corruption, but prosecutors and federal police were under-resourced and investigators lacked experience in targeting corporate crime. Despite 28 cases reported to federal police since the introduction of laws in 1999, criminal charges had been laid over only one.

Eight former executives of Reserve Bank companies Note Printing Australia and Securency are facing committal proceedings in the Melbourne Magistrates Court over alleged conspiracy to bribe foreign officials in order to gain banknote-supply contracts in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Evidence is due to finish next week.

The OECD report said the case brought against the two companies highlighted:

■ A lack of co-ordination between federal police and the corporate regulator ASIC, which investigates breaches of directors’ duties. ”Miscommunication between the AFP and ASIC may have left important aspects of foreign bribery cases uninvestigated.”

■ A need for stronger whistleblower protections, noting: ”The Securency/NPA case was initially rejected without investigation when a whistleblower first approached the AFP in 2008. An investigation began only after the company self-reported wrongdoing to the AFP in the following year.”

■ Austrade’s role in introducing foreign agents to Australian companies after a ”cursory” background check, saying the government should ”consider taking concrete steps to encourage companies, in the strongest terms, to conduct due diligence on agents”.

■ Reported suggestions that Reserve Bank and federal government officials knew of corruption allegations but did not report them to police, indicating a working group ”should follow up the issue of foreign bribery reporting by Australian officials in the Securency/NPA matter when Australian authorities are at liberty to discuss this issue [once court proceedings have concluded]”.

A specialist in corruption law, Johnson Winter & Slattery partner Robert Wyld, said Australia was ”reactive” in implementing foreign bribery laws. ”When somebody like the OECD comes to visit and starts asking questions … is when the government starts to react.”

The OECD – which also noted that some progress had been made since its last report in 2005 – was the subject of cross-examination in the committal of the former executives in October.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police yesterday said the enforcement of foreign bribery laws was a ”high priority for the Australian government” and investigations were ”inherently complex due to their cross-border nature”.

She said that in August 2011 the AFP reviewed all foreign bribery cases that had been closed without charges. Two cases were reopened ”to exhaust all lines of inquiry” but have since been finalised without charges.

An Austrade spokesman said the agency had implemented major reforms following a review in 2011. ASIC declined to comment.

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Scouts kept files on paedophile suspects

The files contained allegations of disturbing incidents, such as a case where a male scoutmaster had written love letters to a 12 or 14-year-old boy Scout.SCOUTS in New South Wales kept ”behavioural” and unofficial ”red” files on suspected paedophile Scout leaders detailing allegations that had not always been reported to police, say former Scout officials.

The existence of the files, dating from the 1960s to the 1990s, was confirmed by the former chief executive of the Scouts Australia New South Wales branch, Peter Olah, and a former district and regional commissioner, Des Hocking, this week.

The branch had earlier this week denied it had any official or unofficial red files, saying they only kept a record of ”administrative matters arising during the provision of the Scouting program, which were not published but were available to police or any appropriate authority if needed”.

But a Scouts NSW spokeswoman said the organisation passed on claims about the files uncovered by The Saturday Age to police.

The revelations come as Scouts in the US were revealed to be keeping secret ”perversion files” on hundreds of suspected paedophiles.

The allegations about similar files being kept in Australia were uncovered after The Saturday Age investigated how a suspected paedophile scoutmaster in the Hunter Valley was allowed to maintain contact with boy Scouts – some of whom he abused – despite being the subject of complaints.

This week Mr Hocking confirmed the keeping of red files was common among commissioners. Mr Hocking, who retired from Scouts three years ago, revealed the practice while explaining how Scouts had failed to quickly expel the paedophile Steve ”Skip” Larkins, who abused Scouts in the 1990s. Larkins was suspended in 2000 despite concerns being raised about him years earlier.

Mr Hocking said Scout leaders suspected of paedophile behaviour and named in his own ”red files” were not reported to police because there had not been distinct criminal acts.

But the files still contained allegations of disturbing incidents, such as a case where a male scoutmaster had written love letters to a 12 or 14-year-old boy Scout in the mid to late 1990s.

Another dealt with complaints about a young Scout leader notorious for grabbing the underwear of girl Scouts.

He did not report the letter writer to the police because it was a ”stupid misdemeanour”.

”We had no evidence it had gone beyond a letter of infatuation. You couldn’t cut someone’s head off for it,” he said.

Mr Hocking said both of the Scout leaders detailed in the files had received official warnings and left the region. But he was unhappy to learn that the letter-writer had received a Scouting award in another region.

He said he burnt his red files after he left Scouting because he did not want them turning up at a dump and being read.

Mr Olah said the organisation had a ”half drawer” of files detailing ”suspicions” about leaders when he started in the head office in the late 1990s.

He handed them to police soon after starting as chief executive in 1999-2000. ”There was stuff going back to the 1960s and most of those were people [who were complained about] who were either convicted or long dead,” he said. Another former Scouting official, Charles Watson, said he was unaware of ”red” files but noted that headquarters had been sent reports about suspected paedophiles which should still be archived.

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Charting our course for meeting the challenges of the Asian century

Ideas man … Trade Minister Craig Emerson.So tomorrow, here at last and in Sydney, too, is the new white paper on Australia in the Asian Century prepared by some of our top brains in government, academia and business, and launched by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

It’s run a bit over schedule, as the original target for publication was the middle of the year, but at 13 months from the commissioning date, it promises to be a huge study produced in a relatively short period.

So huge the head of the Office of National Assessments (Canberra’s top intelligence body), Alan Gyngell, and other senior foreign policy experts have been diverted from regular duties for weeks to concentrate on and shape its findings.

The question now is: how partisan will be the reception?

In the poisonous atmosphere of Canberra, it’s not inconceivable that even a ”motherhood” proposition such as advocating closer engagement with fast-prospering Asia can become intensely political.

And that’s not only anticipating Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey or Scott Morrison saying: ”Yes, but what does it say about stopping the boats?” It’s about internal Labor Party politics too.

The idea for the study came from Gillard’s top foreign policy confidant, the Trade Minister, Craig Emerson. It was a very good idea in itself, but had the advantage of stealing some of Kevin Rudd’s thunder about being the great Asian expert who Labor pushed aside.

This will be a double wedge then, challenging Abbott’s Coalition to move decisively beyond the ”Anglosphere” and ”geography no longer matters” thinking that periodically pops out of its mouth and asserting that interest in Asia isn’t confined to Rudd.

On the sidelines, it may be pointed out that, while he undoubtedly knows a lot, Rudd did a pretty good job as prime minister and foreign minister of offending three big Asian powers – China, Japan and India – with some undiplomatic remarks and travel priorities.

In the Coalition, there are several figures already working hard on understanding the region, including the spokeswoman for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, and backbencher Josh Frydenberg, who will look beyond immediate politics to longer term national interests.

A white paper is government policy, Gillard staffers insist, not a consultant’s report. So what will it contain?

Those looking for hard policy announcements will be disappointed. Those familiar with the draft say it does not include new spending programs, say on Asian studies in schools, that will enter the federal budget anytime soon.

But the white paper is very much about how Australia and Australians ”step up to the mark” in terms of knowledge and infrastructure to make the best of Asian opportunities. With the former Treasury secretary Ken Henry chairing the panel in charge of it, it can be certain that some ideas about making the tax system more competitive – and encouraging competitiveness – will figure strongly.

On the other side of the picture, it does look at the emerging Asia, including its economic prospects, strategic relationships and regional architecture. But as a public document, it is not going to be critical of developments in other countries – though it won’t be ”Pollyanna-ish” either, say insiders.

It will be a fascinating, possibly seminal document that challenges all of us to inform ourselves more about Asia and attune our behaviour to make the most of its opportunities.

Unfortunately, I won’t be reporting on it tomorrow for the Herald. By an unfortunate accident of timing, yesterday was my last day at the newspaper. As with many senior colleagues, the current transformation at Fairfax Media has presented a moment to move on and hand over to younger journalists.

My three stints on the newspaper – the first started as a cadet fresh out of university – and freelancing in between, have given me plenty of opportunities to explore Asia, from Japan across to the Middle East, as well as the south-west Pacific, and meet its characters high and low.

Back in Sydney, Asia and the Pacific are here to be discovered too.

I’ve written about a pub in Marrickville owned by a Maori tribe, attended a Tamil Tiger memorial service in Parramatta Town Hall, drunk kava at a Tongan ceremony in Mount Druitt, heard Turkish sufi music in Auburn, and met business people, academics, diplomats, spooks and dissidents from all over.

My job as Asia-Pacific Editor continued a Herald tradition of close interest in the immediate circle of neighbours – going back through names such as David Jenkins, Louise Williams and Peter Hastings – that was driven by curiosity about the deeper trends in these nations.

It is this inner ring of neighbours – Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the other Melanesian states, and just behind them the other south-east Asian countries – where Australia’s security lies.

As enthralling and important for trade as these bigger and more advanced Asian economies may be, the Australia media must continue to bring news and analysis of these closer nations to its audiences, and not just when an Australian is arrested, blown up or killed in a plane crash.

Unless it does, it can hardly lecture Australian business for not bothering to investigate Asian markets, for assuming Asia’s consumers want the same things as our’s, for not learning to listen to what Asian counterparts are trying to get across. It can hardly lament the decline of Asian language study in our schools and universities. The white paper on Australia in the Asian Century speaks to the media too.

So sayonara from me, and thanks to all the many readers who’ve sent comments and information over the years. I am not retiring, and hope to be part of the Australia in the Asian century for a few more years yet.

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Room to breathe for life-starved river

The director of the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, Dr Ben Gawne, says the government’s pledge means more water for riverside woodlands during dry spells.IT SOUNDS like a lot of water, and it is – the extra 450 billion litres of water that Julia Gillard has promised to save for the rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin ticks most environmental boxes.

Where the river was likely to get 2750 billion litres, the government now wants to give it 3200.

Modelling by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority found injecting the additional water now on the table would significantly improve the health of key sites, such as the red gum and black box forests along the Murray River in northern Victoria.

It would mean an extra 30,000 hectares of flood plains will be more regularly inundated and there would be modest improvements at the famous Lower Lakes, the Coorong and Murray Mouth in South Australia.

Dr Ben Gawne, director of the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, says all this means more water can be delivered to riverside woodlands during dry spells, meaning less time between drinks for ecosystems that are home to rare parrots and other birds.

If regular flows do not occur, organic matter such as dead leaves can build up. When the drought breaks and there is a flood, that matter is swept into rivers and depletes oxygen in the water, turning it black, and killing fish and crustaceans. Last year, thousands of Murray cod died due to black water.

When flood plains don’t get enough water, salt builds up in the soil. When the rain returns that salt content is swept into rivers, damaging the ecosystem.

But as always with the Murray-Darling, there is a catch or two.

Authorities are concerned that increased environmental flows cannot be delivered without swelling rivers at man-made and natural choke points, potentially flooding bridges, roads and properties.

The modelling assumes that these problems will be fixed, but if they are not, earlier analysis has shown that the environment won’t benefit as much as it should from the extra water.

Labor has put $200 million on the table to try to address this problem through steps such as raising bridges and increasing the size of existing dams. Whether all this can be done without affecting personal property and people’s lives is unclear, though the government has given itself to 2024 to work it out.

To calm farming communities, who two years ago were burning copies of a basin blueprint proposing similar amounts of water being returned to the river, the government has found an extra $1.57 billion to make irrigation infrastructure more efficient and less leaky. This is on top of $12.8 billion already promised for infrastructure and buying back water from farmers.

The government says most of the extra 450 billion litres announced yesterday will be delivered by irrigation upgrades, but the actual amount of water delivered by these projects can prove woolly.

The fate of the Murray-Darling will ultimately come down to whether the basin states can agree. The promise of extra water has calmed South Australia, but enraged Victoria and New South Wales.

A deal is now within their grasp and the benefits are clear, but it is by no means guaranteed.

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Help from afar brings a degree of inspiration

Burmese refugee and Melburnian Thein Naing teaches refugee students on the Thai-Burma border.A TOWN on the Thai-Burma border populated with thousands of refugees from nearby camps might seem an unlikely place for a university graduation ceremony.

But for Thein Naing it was among the most remarkable moments of his career in education.

Mr Naing, himself a Burmese refugee, watched as four students received their degrees in Mae Sot earlier this year. ”It was very emotional,” he says.

The students were the first Burmese refugees to complete degrees through a project by Open Universities Australia, which is offering online courses from Australian universities to residents of refugee camps.

Mr Naing is now helping dozens more refugees to earn Australian university degrees in fields such as community development, healthcare and media studies.

He now jets between his home in Melbourne and the Thai-Burma border, where he works as an academic support co-ordinator for Open Universities’ Burma project.

”When the [university] graduates received their degree certificates, many people were encouraged that there is hope and even in this refugee environment they do have supporters,” he says. ”It’s hard work. I’m quite proud they’ve completed these Australian tertiary degrees.”

Mr Naing was a student activist in Rangoon protesting for democracy during mass rallies in 1988. On September 18 that year the Burmese military reportedly killed thousands of people.

Mr Naing fled to the jungle with fellow students where they continued their political activism while living in bamboo huts and suffering bouts of malaria.

”We tried to survive on whatever food we could find. We had very limited support from the international community then.”

Soon after arriving on the border, Mr Naing began teaching at a school for fellow refugees, putting to use the training he had received from a British non-government organisation.

In 1995 he came to Australia on an AusAID scholarship. Mr Naing settled in Melbourne and studied biology before going on to complete a master’s degree in education.

He lives in Surrey Hills with his wife and son, who is studying graphic design at Swinburne University. But Mr Naing still spends much of the year on the Thailand border.

He says the online degree program offers a rare opportunity for Burmese refugees to gain a university education.

Some of the students work for community-based organisations, which provide them with access to the internet so they can study, Mr Naing says.

”I’m quite optimistic with international support we can push forward for … human rights,” he said.

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$5 note leads woman to a bag of cash at The Star casino

A woman took $624,340 in notes to the exclusive Sovereign Room and asked to put it in her casino account. Photo: Ian Waldie A woman took $624,340 in notes to the exclusive Sovereign Room and asked to put it in her casino account. Photo: Ian Waldie

A woman took $624,340 in notes to the exclusive Sovereign Room and asked to put it in her casino account. Photo: Ian Waldie

A woman took $624,340 in notes to the exclusive Sovereign Room and asked to put it in her casino account. Photo: Ian Waldie

A man and a woman arranged a meeting at The Star casino, agreeing she would hand over a $5 note with a particular serial number on it to identify herself

The exchange of that note on January 20, 2013 led them down to the car park to collect a backpack, hidden inside a plastic bag, containing far more cash.

From there, the couple went briefly to a hotel room, before the woman took $624,340 in notes to the exclusive Sovereign Room and asked to put the money into her casino account.

Casino staff noticed the dirt and grit on the money, and the strange way it was bundled, and called the Australian Federal Police to investigate the woman.

She asked the staff if she could transfer some money to a bank account.

The next day police arrested Yi-Hua Jiao​ with $300,000 in cash, which she had withdrawn from her casino account, at the Pyrmont branch of the Commonwealth Bank.

Ms Jiao was charged with dealing with money over the amount of $100,000, which was reasonable to suspect was the proceeds of crime.

After a trial in the NSW District Court, Ms Jiao was found guilty and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

But the Crown appealed against what it argued was an “unjust” or “unreasonable” sentence, and on Friday the Court of Criminal Appeal re-sentenced her to 16 months’ custody.

The court heard that Ms Jiao had agreed to meet the man, and hand over a $5 note.

Her trial was told that the money was obtained by her brother Sheng Chou Jiao​, so that one of her sons, William, could open his Taiwanese coffee cart business in Sydney.

It was also going to be used to buy a “ranch” where Mr Jiao planned to spend his retirement, the trial heard.

Ms Jiao told the court she believed the money belonged to her brother through a “money remittance transaction”.

There was no information at trial about the origin of the money, other than a belief that it had been “purchased” by her brother.

The appeals court noted that the amount was more than six times over the threshold for the charge.

“The sentence passed was manifestly inadequate and a substantial increase is warranted,” the court, made up of Justices Julie Ward, Peter Johnson and Monika Schmidt, said in its judgment.

The court took into account Ms Jiao’s co-operation with authorities when considering the new sentence.

Ms Jiao, who holds both Taiwanese and New Zealand passports, will be released in December after serving a year’s jail time, and will then be subject to a four-month good behaviour bond.

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Taree to see Sydney Writer’s festival

Taree to see Sydney Writer’s festival 10am – 11am Don Watson: The Bush

11.30am – 12.30pm Writing Family: Kate Grenville, Ramona Koval and Barrie Cassidy

11.30am – 12.30pm Writing Family: Kate Grenville, Ramona Koval and Barrie Cassidy

11.30am – 12.30pm Writing Family: Kate Grenville, Ramona Koval and Barrie Cassidy

3pm – 4pm Anna Bligh: Through the Wall

1.30pm – 2.30pm Growing Up and Other Disasters: Alan Cumming and Damian Barr

1.30pm – 2.30pm Growing Up and Other Disasters: Alan Cumming and Damian Barr

4.30pm – 5.30pm Michael Frayn: On Fiction

TweetFacebookEntry is free, however bookings are essential and can be made for individual sessions through the library website梧桐夜网manningvalleylibraries苏州美甲美睫培训学校419论坛. For more information contact Manning Valley Libraries [email protected]论坛or phone 6592 5290.

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Smith Family seeks support

Blake Murray and program coordinator Heidi ProwseTHE Smith Family has called for volunteer tutors to step forward after the success of its after-school hours learning club for Taree primary school students.

The tutors will work with a second Learning Club for year seven students.

Running on Tuesdays between 4pm and 5pm at the Taree City Library, the two clubs offer more than 20 children who are supported through The Smith Family’s Learning for Life sponsorship program.

The clubs help to consolidate children’s classroom learning, whilst boosting their confidence and self-esteem, helping with homework, general literacy and numeracy.

The new Learning Club for year seven students will assist those who have moved on from the primary Learning Club, as well as new students looking for support to help them stay on top of the school curriculum.

Members of the public suited to volunteering in the role of Learning Club tutor are patient, enthusiastic and able to relate to children, in addition to possessing good oral and written communication skills.

Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to contact the Taree Smith Family office on 6551 0229.

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