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Splendid! Let’s lock an entire generation of Australians out of the property market

by Michael West | Feb 23, 2017 | Finance & Tax, Government

As the government dithers over money laundering policy, policy which would keep a lid on Chinese buyers whipping up a frenzy in city property – and as baby boomers and politicians revel in their suite of superannuation tax lurks and holiday homes – an entire generation of young Australians remains locked out of the real estate market. 

We rang up the government yesterday to find out how its long-awaited money-laundering legislation was coming along. This is a biannual affair: a call to the relevant minister, a call to the relevant department and a call to money laundering agency Austrac to ask why the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing legislation, which was supposed to have been introduced nine years ago, had still not been enacted.

House prices surge on China black money; authorities dither

“No comment” was the response from the Minister for Justice Michael Keenan. His Opposition counterparts have been equally pathetic over the years. Nobody wants to mess with the sacred cow which is Australia’s property market, or the lawyers, accountants and property spruikers who launder the money for that matter.

The first tranche of AML legislation was brought in ten years ago. It covers banks, casinos and bullion dealers. They have to report where their money is coming from. The second tranche – covering accountants, lawyers and real estate agents – was supposed to have been legislated in the following year but is still the subject of “reviews’, “consulting with industry”, “submissions”, and “cost benefit analyses”.

There is no other way to treat this issue but as a total joke. And so it is that we will inscribe here the government’s response (in bold) along with our comments (plain font) and a quote from Sir Humphrey Appleby of Yes Minister (italics).

What is going on?


The Government is closely consulting with industry on regulation models for tranche two entities”.

But you have been closely consulting with industry on regulation models for tranche two entities for almost a decade.

Sir Humphrey:

“The press office can devise something convincing and meaningless. That is what they are paid for.”

Industry consultation papers were posted on the Attorney-General’s Department’s website in December 2016 with a deadline of 31 January 2017 for submissions.

Another deadline? Is that like the deadlines of 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014?

While it has been government policy to regard policy as a responsibility of ministers and administration as a responsibility of officials, the questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy.

The Government is developing models and work on a cost-benefit analysis is underway.

Underway? Cost benefit analysis. Really? Isn’t that what you said last time and the time before that?

Well Minister, if you ask me for a straight answer, then I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn’t very much in it one way or the other. As far as one can see, at this stage.

The outcome of the cost-benefit analysis will inform the Government’s decision on the regulation of tranche two entities under the AML/CTF regime.

It it said that Christmas is coming too.

Hacker: (reading a speech written for him) “We shall of course be reviewing a wide range of options over the whole field of government expenditures”.

Bernard, this doesn’t say anything.

Bernard: Oh, thank you, Prime Minister.

Hacker: It’s completely lacking impact.

Bernard: You’re too kind, Prime Minster.

This work is part of broader reforms to Australia’s AML/CFT regime, following the Statutory Review of the regime tabled in April 2016.  Further information is available on

How about the review tabled in 2008?

But the point about government is that no one has control. Lots of people have the power to stop something happening — but almost nobody has the power to make anything happen. We have a system of government with the engine of a lawn-mower and the brakes of a Rolls-Royce.

The Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act) covers the financial sector, gambling sector, bullion dealers and other professionals or businesses that provide services covered by the Act.

Please feel free to send us some more unnecessary filler to make this statement look authoritative.

A good speech isn’t one where we can tell he’s telling the truth. It’s one in which nobody else can tell he’s lying.

“So long as there is anything to be gained by saying nothing, it is always better to say nothing than anything”.

That was fun. Government, with its “Open Government” rhetoric, has become so absurd that we would not be surprised in the least if, next time, we literally receive the words of Sir Humphrey in a media response. This for instance:

A recommendation that we set up an interdepartmental committee with fairly broad terms of reference so that at the end of the day we would be in a position to think through all the implications and take a decision based on long-term considerations rather than rush prematurely into precipitate and possibly ill-conceived action that might well have unforeseen repercussions.


Michael West established Michael West Media in 2016 to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. West was formerly a journalist and editor with Fairfax newspapers, a columnist for News Corp and even, once, a stockbroker.

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