Austrac Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Funding Customer ID and Verification Rule

Published on: August 2020

Record: HANSARD-1323879322-112106


Austrac Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Funding Customer ID and Verification Rule

Ms GABRIELLE UPTON (Vaucluse) (12:16):

:04 I move:

That this House:

Acknowledges on 28 May 2020, AUSTRAC announced a change to their Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Funding Customer ID and Verification Rule to help those experiencing family and domestic violence to open separate bank accounts to enable their financial independence.

Notes under the change, banks and other regulated businesses can use alternative ways to verify a customer's identity when they cannot provide a driver's licence, birth certificate or other accepted form of identification.

Recognises the significant role of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in delivering the rule change, taking inspiration from the Bank of Israel's supportive model for domestic violence victims.

Congratulates Jillian Segal, AM, Jillian Broadbent, AC, and the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce [AICC] CEO, Michelle Blum, on championing this important reform since it was raised during the 2018 AICC Women Leaders Trade Mission to Israel.

On 2 June I moved a motion in this House that on 28 May AUSTRAC, which is the Australian Government agency responsible for protecting our financial systems from crime, had changed its anti-money laundering and counterterrorism customer ID and verification rule. It was to help those experiencing family and domestic violence to do a very practical thing, to open up a separate bank account to enable those men and women to have financial independence. Under that change banks and other regulated financial businesses can use alternative ways to verify a customer's identity when they cannot provide a driver's licence, birth certificate or other forms of usually accepted identification.

In that motion I wanted to acknowledge the significant role of the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce in delivering the change and acknowledge that it was drawn from the Bank of Israel's model of support for family and domestic violence in Israel. I further want to congratulate Jillian Segal, AM, Jillian Broadbent, AC, and the AICC CEO Michelle Blum for championing this important reform. It came from a trade mission that I made with the AICC with other women in 2018. It was the AICC women leaders trade mission to Israel. It was fantastic to recently hear that this important practical change was enacted after months of work by the AICC. I did want to call them out for their important role in ensuring that this change happened. It is ultimately to practically support victims, whether they be male or female, of domestic and family violence here in Australia.

Israel is acclaimed as a leader in innovation enterprise. We did go to Israel, not necessarily with this outcome in mind. We wanted to experience Israel firsthand. For me it was my third visit. It was to bring back ideas and insights. Only an immersive trip can make that happen. One of the ideas leading to this change followed a meeting with the Bank of Israel. It is replicating their model for supporting victims of domestic and family violence. We all know in this Chamber that when a victim is fleeing a violent situation it is often impossible for them to collect their identification documents. In fact, in some cases those documents are deliberately withheld by the perpetrator of domestic and family violence. We must remember that financial abuse is a form of domestic and family violence. Having a new bank account, which this change enables, independent of a domestic violence perpetrator, is essential for that victim to set up a new life and become financially independent.

Proving your identity to set up a new bank account without the usual identification documents is very difficult. It is a practical and real barrier to these victims setting up a new life and future beyond that abuse. After we returned from the mission the AICC brought together a working group with the four major banks in Australia to investigate whether there could be an adoption of the Israel model by Australia. Out of that came this regulatory change, which as I said is a flexible approach to establishing customer identity in certain circumstances.

I cannot emphasise enough that it is a small change in many ways, but it is such a major, life-changing adjustment if a victim is in circumstances where there is financial abuse. There was consultation—that is why it took a little while—with the financial sector and community organisations including family violence services, community legal services and financial counselling services, many of which offer frontline services to victims of domestic and family violence. I commend all of those organisations for their great work in landing this small but so impactful change and for making a reality this idea that the group I was a part of brought back from its Israel trade mission.

I add that the New South Wales Government has played a critical role in stepping up support for family and domestic violence victims. It came with the very inception of a Minister who holds that title. Pru Goward, who used to sit in this House, did a lot of work over the many years in which she held that portfolio to not only do the immediate things needed to support those victims but do many things beyond that. Indeed, when I served as Attorney General in this Parliament one of the most important things I was able to do was lead our nation in making sure that apprehended domestic violence orders [ADVOs] could be enforced across States and Territories.

We had a practical problem where ADVOs in one State were not recognised for enforcement in another State or Territory. You can imagine the incredible impact—the painful and practical impact—that had on victims if they had to flee the State to preserve their own and their families' lives. They would not have the protection of those ADVOs. That step to lead the nation, which then led to other States and Territories making sure there was mutual recognition, as I would call it, was such an important part of the small contribution I was able to make. But there are many other things, and these are even more important in the light of COVID, as we know.

Home is a safe place for many of us. But home is not a safe place for the victims of family and domestic violence. Out of COVID they have found themselves more and more surrounded by that lack of safety. That is why some of the things we have done in this Parliament are so important—why the supporting services have been stepped up with funding, with legislative changes and with temporary accommodation. There are many millions of dollars, which I will not enumerate individually here, that have gone into supporting those victims who need our support, particularly critically at this time. This is a small but vast change to banking regulation that will so help our victims of family and domestic violence set up financial independence, which is the beginning of a new and bright future for them and their families.

Mr PETER SIDGREAVES (Camden) (12:23):

:29 I thank the member for her motion on this very important matter. As stated in paragraph (1) of her motion, on 28 May 2020 the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre [AUSTRAC] announced a change to its Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Funding Customer ID and Verification Rule. The change enables victims of domestic and family violence to use alternative documents for identification when they are opening up a bank account. These important changes will allow banks to use alternative methods to verify a customer's identity while still maintaining due diligence. Financial abuse is a serious form of family and domestic violence experienced by over two million Australians over their lifetime, especially experienced by women. I commend AUSTRAC for working with the Australian Banking Association, the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce NSW and community stakeholders to reach this valuable outcome.

The New South Wales Government has a tough stance on perpetrators of domestic and family violence [DFV] and has invested a record amount of money to support victims and to help keep them safe. Having financial independence is essential for DFV victims to start a new life after fleeing abusive situations. The Premier's priority to reduce by 25 per cent the number of domestic violence reoffenders in New South Wales by 2023 is critically important to reduce the scourge of DFV in our communities. I thank the Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence for his work to change attitudes to DFV and reduce the occurrence of DFV.

The New South Wales Government has invested a record $431 million over four years to tackle DFV through a range of initiatives including funding for 84 women's refuges to provide crisis accommodation and support to women, with or without children, who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness; and expanding the Staying Home Leaving Violence program to 33 sites across New South Wales. The program works with the NSW Police Force to remove perpetrators from family homes so that victims and their children can stay safely at home, and also provides a range of support services including improving home security, managing finances and helping with the legal process. The Government has introduced the Immediate Needs Support Package to provide financial assistance paid directly to victims, with the average time taken to provide payment being 11 days, against a service level standard of 15 working days. The Government has also introduced tenancy reforms to provide better protection for victims of DFV when leaving abusive relationships, giving victims certainty they will not be penalised in future rental applications.

Victims of financial abuse are vulnerable to homelessness. The New South Wales Government is working to improve the prevention of homelessness and its response to it. The Premier's priority to reduce street homelessness across New South Wales by 50 per cent by 2025 is an ambitious and important goal to help place almost 1,300 people sleeping rough into secure and stable housing. I thank the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services for his work and his Housing First approach, which has seen 2,750 people housed during COVID. The New South Wales Government has committed more than $1 billion to homelessness services over the next four years, including $61 million of new funding to implement the NSW Homelessness Strategy, which focuses on identifying vulnerable people early, and providing better support and services. The AUSTRAC regulation change is a major step forward in supporting DFV victims so that they can better achieve financial independence and avoid the possibility of homelessness. I commend the motion.

Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (12:27):

:57 I thank the member for Vaucluse for her motion and I acknowledge the work she has undertaken in the intervening period between the trade mission to Israel in 2018 and her work alongside the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and leading Australian businesswomen to support this initiative in our community. It is clear from conversations I have had with the member that this is an issue that may seem quite minor to many people—it might seem like a small rule change—but at the end of the day it is something that will inextricably and substantially impact the capacity of women who are trying to escape domestic or family violence, and empower them to be able to do so. These rule changes are significant. I acknowledge the work of the member for Vaucluse in not just discussing this but in actually working to initiate and support it.

As the member mentioned earlier, in May Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre [AUSTRAC] announced a change to its Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Funding Customer ID and Verification Rule to enable victims of domestic and family violence to provide alternative documents for identification when opening up a bank account. These changes will give bank staff the flexibility they need to use alternative measures to verify a customer's identity in the case of those experiencing family and domestic violence while still maintaining the due diligence processes they need when they suspect a customer is not who they claim to be.

We are all aware of the scourge of domestic and family violence in our communities. It occurs in every community. Financial abuse is insidious in its nature in that it is often unseen and unable to be addressed. It is experienced by over two million Australians during their lifetime, with 63 per cent of women experiencing financial stress because of financial abuse. It can be perpetuated over long periods, often many decades. It can force people to stay in abusive relationships because they do not have the means and capacity to support themselves. Often people can be prevented from participating in the workforce, holding their own bank accounts and developing their own superannuation and supports. Women are forced to remain in abusive relationships for decades, possibly into their elderly years, because they do not have the financial capacity to break free.

One of the Premier's Priorities is reducing domestic violence reoffending. The Government has strongly supported the drive to reduce domestic violence and support victims and survivors of domestic and family violence in New South Wales. The Premier outlined reducing domestic violence reoffending as one of her priorities, with the aim to reduce domestic violence reoffenders by 25 per cent by 2023. There has already been progress and improvement in these areas, thanks to the commitment and energy of the frontline workers serving our communities. The New South Wales Government will continue to tackle the crime of domestic and family violence in our communities and the underlying attitudes that perpetuate it.

Our Watch has been spoken about in this place before. I acknowledge the Government's participation as of July 2019 in Our Watch, which is the national organisation working for the prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia. The decision to participate was made to build on our existing efforts to drive nationwide change to prevent domestic violence and to protect women and children. This has been raised with me in my community by the Lower North Shore Domestic Violence Network. Local organisations such as Mary's House and the Women's Community Shelters are trying to expand access for women fleeing domestic and family violence. I thank the member for Vaucluse for her motion and give it my full support.

Ms GABRIELLE UPTON (Vaucluse) (12:32):

:07 In reply: I again commend the work that has been undertaken to bring about a practical change to the lives of family and domestic violence victims. In May this year a change was announced to the customer identification and verification rule that will enable victims of family and domestic violence—who can be men and women—where they cannot produce a driver licence or birth certificate or where they show a different address so that banks and other regulated financial institutions can use other ways to verify their customer's identity. This power will enable those men and women who have been abused to start a new life, set up a new bank account, take on new financial obligations and keep part of the wealth to support them in their new way of living and into the future and keep it safe from the eyes and fingers of their abusers.

Financial abuse is a form of family and domestic violence. Shockingly, it will be experienced by over two million Australians during their lifetime. It should be remembered that 63 per cent of women experience financial stress as a result of financial abuse. It can take many forms. What often happens is an abuser uses violence and intimidation to restrict access to a person's bank accounts, prevents them from working or accessing benefits or reduces their wherewithal to access the money they need for themselves or their children. This rule change will give victims the opportunity to set up a bank account whether or not they have the usual forms of identification

This measure came about as a result of a trade mission in 2018, of which I was a member, together with other women, hosted by the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce. Women leaders from across business and professions attended. This was the particular initiative we took forward after returning to Sydney. It was not necessarily something that we sought out. Like a number of things in life when one travels and is open to new ideas and experiences, it came from a conversation. I remember the meeting. I was sitting in a room with some senior people from the Bank of Israel talking about how they implemented this initiative. A number of women in the room looked at one another and said, "That is amazing. We are going to go home and do something about this." It is a simple administrative change—although it took two years to make it happen. It did happen because some important people pushed it. Like most things in life, one has to push, push, push to make change.

I thank the Australian Banking Association, the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre [AUSTRAC], which is the government agency that protects our financial system, and all the other stakeholders who consulted on this change to make it a reality. It gives power back to victims who feel they have no power. Through establishing new bank accounts, it gives them the opportunity to build a new life, which ultimately means they can do more than survive, they can thrive and build themselves a brighter future.

The SPEAKER:

The question is that the motion be agreed to.

Motion agreed to.

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