Some of Australia’s most respected investigative journalists have signed an open letter to the federal government urging it not to privatise the corporate registry held by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). They have urged the government to make access to the database free, as it is in New Zealand and Britain.
Eighty-four journalists, including Adele Ferguson, Chris Vedelago and Nick McKenzie from Fairfax Media, independent reporters Michael West, Paddy Manning and Jess Hill, and the Australian’s Anthony Klan, warned the government their ability to investigate illicit and unethical behaviour would be impeded if ASIC’s corporate registry were privatised.
The open letter said the charges to access the records in the database — already among the highest in the world — are “a significant barrier to proper corporate accountability. Privatisation will see this barrier entrenched and new barriers may be erected.”
It called on the government to reduce barriers to access, in the interests of corporate transparency, rather than erecting new ones.
West, who has long warned about the consequences of the registry sale, said it would will help multinational companies hide from their creditors and conceal their tax affairs.
“I’ve broken many stories on corporate misconduct, including tax evasion from Google, eBay and Glencore. I couldn’t have done this work without access to the ASIC database,” West said.
“If the government sells the register, it’s going to become harder to conduct investigations into corporate financial affairs. It would create a monopoly over public information.”
The journalists' campaign has been backed up by an online petition conducted by GetUp!. So far, about 80,000 people have signed the petition, which is available here.