‘Prevent possibility of being safe haven’

‘Prevent possibility of being safe haven’

Ben Packham – The Australian – Wednesday 09 December 2020

Scott Morrison is being urged to push ahead with new laws to prevent Australia becoming a safe haven for human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials, ahead of their likely introduction next year.

Liberal senators James Paterson and Eric Abetz called on the Prime Minister in the Coalition party room to enact the proposed “Magnitsky-style” laws, following a bipartisan inquiry recommending the new targeted sanctions regimen.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne – who initiated the Senate committee inquiry – will consider the report over the Christmas break, and is widely expected to recommend the laws to cabinet in the New Year.

They would give her the power to impose sanctions on individuals, corporations or state bodies for serious corruption or human rights abuse.

Senator Paterson told the party room that Australia needed to join the US, UK and Canada in adopting the laws, or the nation would be used by criminals and human rights violators to park their money and educate their children.

Senator Abetz also commended the report to colleagues.

Government sources said the introduction of the laws was now a question of timing. US financier and billionaire Bill Browder has campaigned for global laws to limit the benefits available to corrupt officials after his employee, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested, tortured and died in police custody in Russia after uncovering a massive tax fraud.

Mr Browder said Australia could impose the new sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the human rights abuses of the Xinjiang internment camps in northern China. But the government will argue they are not targeted against a particular country, but at illegal behaviour that is found across the world.

Sanctions available under the proposed laws would include the freezing of their assets in Australia, and the denial of visas to perpetrators and their family members.

The minister, in consultation with the attorney-general, could also place an individual or body on a public “watch list” for serious corruption or human rights abuse as a warning.

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