The Australian Greens renewed their call for a review of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation’s processes today as Iraqi officials announced it is “more than likely” Leighton Offshore was given advance details of rival bids for $1.2billion of tenders in Iraq.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said Leighton Offshore was being investigated by the Australian Federal Police as well as an anti-corruption unit in the Iraqi Oil Ministry for alleged bribes, casting a shadow over assistance given to the Leighton Holdings subsidiary by EFIC.
“EFIC provided support worth $37million to Leighton Offshore for involvement in an oil export facility. News of the AFP investigation triggered the chief counsel of another Australian company - one that employs over 7000 workers in Asia Minor - to comment that ‘there has not been a lot of enforcement in Australia’. That is profoundly troubling.
“Critics of strong law enforcement in this area inevitably argue that unless such payments are made business in some countries becomes impossible, but bribery flourishes only when people are prepared to pay bribes. Corruption will never end if a blind eye is turned to these practices.
“The Greens have repeatedly raised concerns about projects assisted by government funding. In addition to $548million for the highly controversial ExxonMobil PNG LNG project, there was $50million for an ammonium nitrate plant in Indonesia, $150million for mining in Indonesia and $15million to African Underground Mining Services Pty Ltd for the notorious Ahafo Gold Mine, and even a US$100m export finance guarantee to the Sumimoto Mitsui bank of Japan to enable it to provide finance for the $3billion coal export terminal in Queensland’s Gladstone Port.
“And today we see the Australia-Africa Mining Industry Group crying foul over a proposal by the Attorney-General's Department to make ‘facilitation payments’ – money paid to obtain routine government services – illegal. The lobby claims these payments to make up for the poor resourcing of relevant departments by governments overseas. It is abundantly clear we need the law to be strong and entirely unambiguous on this issue.
“Regardless of the outcome of these specific proposed reforms, we need to ensure Australian anti-corruption laws are properly enforced, and EFIC is in dire need of a review to ensure strict standards are applied to any project assisted by public funds. The Australian community would be surprised to learn that literally hundreds of millions in taxpayer funded loans and finance is going to these type of projects – often to huge multinational corporations.”
Media Contact: Giovanni Torre – 0417 174 302