Draft commitment: Beneficial Ownership
This is a draft commitment for Australia’s first National Action Plan (the Plan).
Australia will work to improve transparency of information on beneficial ownership and control of companies available to competent authorities.
This commitment reads
We will consult with the corporate sector, non-government organisations and the public on a beneficial ownership register for companies.
SHARE WITH PEOPLE, AND GIVE YOUR FEEDBACK BY 5pm (AEDT) on 14 November 2016
Here’s what people are saying:
Evelyn Doyle, Peter Timmins and Luke Bacon support this reform
What would make this commitment better?
Evelyn Doyle says:
I am a strong supporter of this initiative and would like to see the proposal extended to other financial entities such as investment funds (which, not being an expert on financial matters, may come under the company category). The reason this is important is many lobbying companies in Australia list as owners on the Register of Lobbyists (held by PM&C) certain investment funds where ownership is unclear. Transparency around the beneficiaries of lobbying is important in an open government context where the end goal is to reduce corruption and improve the democratic process. There may be issues of complexity in some cases where investment funds may have hundreds or more investors especially if part of a superannuation investment where often the investors may not be aware of their fund’s specific allocations. However, where this is not complex and where the number of investors is easily reported, all beneficiaries should be included.
Peter Timmins says:
Is the commitment “Australia will work to improve transparency of information on beneficial ownership and control of companies available to competent authorities.” Or “We will consult with the corporate sector, non-government organisations and the public on a beneficial ownership register for companies.” Or “To ensure that adequate, accurate and timely information on beneficial ownership and control is available to competent authorities in Australia.”
A ‘we will’ statement works best- a combination: “We will ensure the availability of adequate, accurate and timely information on beneficial ownership and control of companies and other entities.”
The commitment . should not be limited to making such information “available to competent authorities” before public discussion and debate as outlined in the Milestones. There are legitimate privacy and other issues that require consideration during that process but there are arguments and international precedents that support varying degrees of public access.The UK public register of beneficial interests for example includes details of persons with significant control. The data is publicly available for use and reuse.
Similarly should not be limited to beneficial ownership of companies. Beneficial ownership of other entities should also be the subject of public discussion.