Australian oil, gas, mining and logging companies would be required to publicly disclose payments made to foreign governments under a proposed new law.
Greens leader Christine Milne will on Monday announce the Corporations Amendment (Publish What You Pay) Bill, which aims to prevent corruption in Australia and abroad.
The bill seeks to bring Australia into line with the US, European Union, Canada and the UK, which have mandatory reporting rules for extractive companies or are about to introduce such requirements.
Under Senator Milne's proposal, Australian companies would be required to publicly report payments of $100,000 or more to foreign government entities for access to oil, gas, mineral and native forest resources.
Companies would be required to disclose payments on a country-by-country basis and project-by-project basis to ensure transparency.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission would publish the reports. Any false reports of payments would be dealt with under existing rules relating to misleading financial statements.
"With Australian firms heavily involved in extractive industries overseas, including in countries where resource extraction is often linked to poverty, instability and corruption, this bill is an important transparency mechanism," Senator Milne said.
"This bill reduces the opportunity for corruption and other illicit activities by requiring the reporting of payments that have previously been in the dark."
The push to disclose payments comes as Australian companies such as BHP Billiton and Oz Minerals face sanctions for their financial dealings with government officials in Cambodia.
BHP Billiton is understood to be close to reaching a settlement with the US Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a long-running investigation into the company's payment of $2.5 million to the Cambodian government for access to a bauxite mine.
Oz Minerals told investors earlier this year that an Australian Federal Police inquiry into its Cambodian affairs was continuing.
Since 2010 the US has had laws requiring all US companies and those registered with its SEC to publicly report how much they pay foreign governments for access to oil, gas and minerals.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has championed similar laws in Britain that come into effect next year. European Union member states have had mandatory reporting of payments to foreign governments since 2013.
A coalition of non-government organisations, trade unions and aid groups such as Oxfam, Transparency International and World Vision have strongly lobbied governments across the world in recent years for the introduction of "publish what you pay" laws for companies involved in extractive industries.
The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors and the Financial Services Council both support mandatory reporting of payments to foreign governments.
The bill will not require companies to report small facilitation payments made to expedite normal government processes such as issuing permits or licences.
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald, October 26th 2014: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/oil-gas-mining-and...