An aggressive, well-funded federal anti-corruption commission could pursue corruption that escapes the notice of the state-based anti-corruption commission, or the patchwork of other enforcement agencies, which are mostly under-resourced.

Sanction busters … Millions of dollars were paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Sanction busters … Millions of dollars were paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Photo: James Davies

Here are five scandals that might have appeared on its radar.

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Australian Wheat Board scandal in Iraq

AWB 240506 AFR photo Tamara Voninski The Australian Wheat Board announced it s 1/2 year results today at the …

Allegations were made about kickbacks, but no action was taken to investigate. Photo: Tamara Voninski

The Australian Wheat Board (AWB) paid hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks through the late 1990s and early 2000s to the regime of Saddam Hussein to continue wheat sales, contrary to trade sanctions against Iraq. Allegations were made about the payments, including some from the monopoly wheat trader’s competitors.

Australian authorities took no action to investigate, even though AWB officials later claimed the payments were well known to the Australian government. When troops later entered Baghdad in early 2003, they found documents revealing the AWB’s activities.

A Royal Commission, established in 2005 on what Labor described as “narrow” terms of reference, acknowledged the existing system had failed to ensure compliance with the sanctions, but found no fault with the actions of ministers.

Some of the polymer notes printed by Securency.

Some of the polymer notes printed by Securency. Photo: Michael Howard

Securency and Note Printing Australia NPA

In 2007 a whistleblower first raised concerns about international banknote deals by the Reserve Bank of Australia subsidiary Note Printing Australia (NPA) and its sister company Securency. An internal audit, and an investigation by lawyers Freehills, found no illegality, nor any need to act. Despite a string of media revelations of payments, including in Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia, the corporate watchdog ASIC failed to investigate.

Finally, the Australian Federal Police investigated and in 2011 charged Securency and NPA with conspiracy to bribe. Individuals were also charged.

Cabinet room bugging in East Timor

The third biggest spender was Alexander Downer and his team in London.

Alexander Downer became an adviser to Woodside Petroleum on his retirement from politics. Photo: Andrew Meares

Following 2004 negotiations between the Howard government and East Timor over Timor Sea oil and gas revenue, the East Timorese alleged Australian security agencies bugged the East Timorese cabinet room. Woodside Petroleum was working closely with the Australian government at the time. An ASIS operator became a whistleblower after learning that former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer had become an adviser to Woodside Petroleum on his retirement from politics.

East Timor launched an international legal challenge, and intended using the ASIS whistleblower as a key witness. But ASIO raided a lawyer’s office and cancelled the passport of the retired ASIS operator. The case – yet to be heard – raises questions about whether the Australian security services should be subject to greater investigation for improper behaviour.

Donations and campaign funding

ICAC counsel Geoffrey Watson says the process used by the Free Enterprise Foundation is a “systematic subversion of electoral laws”. Photo: Nick Moir

Australia’s notoriously lax political financing laws allows anyone, local or foreigner, to donate any amount of money to anyone they choose. Only donations over $13,200 need be disclosed. The Australian Electoral Commission is renowned as a toothless regulator. Allegations, therefore, are rife of improper campaign funding and lack of transparency, especially in the cases of the Liberal and Labor parties.

Recent controversies include: the funnelling of taxpayer money to the Liberals via software company Parakeelia; revelations of Labor leader Bill Shorten’s failing to declare business contributions to his 2007 campaign; a $100,000 donation from the Chinese Yuhu Group to then trade minister Andrew Robb’s fundraising entity the day he clinched the China Australia free trade deal; donations to federal Liberal party MPs by alleged mafia bosses; masking of banned property developer donations to the NSW Liberal Party via a third party at the time Senator Arthur Sinodinos was party treasurer.

Border security breached with drugs

Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg during estimates hearing at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday …

Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In May 2016 Fairfax Media revealed a network of Australian border security officials allegedly working for organised criminals, including drug and tobacco smugglers, potentially the most serious corruption scandal to hit Australia’s border agencies. But the revelations were also the latest in a string of such stories.

The alleged corruption involved staff from the Australian Border Force and the Department of Agriculture, and maritime industry employees. It highlighted deficiencies in the federal government’s policing of its own agencies and, in particular, the under-resourcing of the little-known crime and corruption watchdog, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Source: Brisbane Times