Securency International Pty Ltd
Question on notice (Question No. 1202)
29 April 2010
Ms J Bishop asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in writing, on 8 February 2010:
(1) Did he promote the technology used by Securency International Pty Ltd on a visit to New Delhi as well as lobby the Brazilian and Mexican governments.
(2) In respect of representations he has made on behalf of Securency International Pty Ltd: (a) how many times has he made them, and on whose instruction; (b) when and where did he make them; (c) who was present each time he made them; (d) what was the nature of his representations; and (e) how were his representations received.
(3) When did he first become aware of allegations of impropriety by anyone associated with Securency International Pty Ltd, and has he made any representations on the company's behalf thereafter.
(4) What did he do to establish the bona fides of Securency International Pty Ltd before making representations on the company's behalf.
(5) What advice did he receive about the bona fides of Securency International Pty Ltd before and after becoming aware of allegations of impropriety, by whom was it given, on what date(s) and of what nature.
(6) What Australian diplomatic assistance was provided to Securency International Pty Ltd, on what date(s), by whom and at what cost.
(7) What Austrade assistance was provided to Securency International Pty Ltd, on what date(s) and at what cost.
(8) Has he met with staff of Securency International Pty Ltd during his tenure as the Minister for Foreign Affairs; if so, what are their names, on what date(s) and where did he meet them, and what was the nature of the meetings.
Mr Smith - the answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:
(1), (2) and (8) As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have had some engagement with representatives of Securency International Pty Ltd on the following occasions:
Securency Managing Director Mr Myles Curtis attended a dinner hosted by me on 26 August 2008 during a visit to Canberra by Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim. There were 21 attendees at the dinner including members of Minister Amorim's party, Brazilian and Australian officials, and representatives of Australia's business and other interests engaged with Brazil. Dinner guests were asked to speak briefly about their organisations' engagement with Brazil and Mr Curtis spoke about Securency in that context.
I raised Securency with Indian Finance Minister Mr Chidambaram in New Delhi on 12 September 2008. Also present at the meeting were Australian and Indian officials. During the meeting, I asked about a possible trial of Securency polymer notes by the Indian Government. Mr Chidambaram responded that the Indian Government was considering whether a trial would proceed.
During a visit to Mexico, I attended a lunch hosted by the Australian Ambassador in Mexico City on 18 November 2008. At the lunch, I was introduced to a representative of Securency in Mexico, Dr Jaime Pacreu. There were some 25 people at the lunch, including Mexican Government officials, representatives of the private sector, including Australian companies active in Mexico, and members of the diplomatic corps.
During a visit to Santiago de Chile, on 27 August 2009 I attended an Australian Business Club reception at which I was introduced to a representative of Securency in Chile, Mr Guillermo Montt. Present at the reception were some 40 to 50 guests, including representatives of Australian companies active in Chile, other private sector representatives and government officials.
There may have been other occasions that I have attended business-related functions at which representatives of Securency have been present.
I do not regard the attendance of business-related functions at which Securency representatives have been present as comprising the "making of representations" or "lobbying" on behalf of Securency.
(3) I became aware of the allegations against Securency on 23 May 2009. I have made no representations on behalf of Securency since 23 May 2009.
(4) and (5) Long-established portfolio procedure has been applied to establishing the bona fides of, and providing assistance to, Securency.
For a business to receive the support of the Australian Government, the business must be an Australian business that contributes to the Australian economy; and/or have a reasonable proportion of its workforce employed in Australia. Heads of Mission or posts are asked to judge whether a company meets these criteria when assisting companies overseas.
Advice from Austrade assists this assessment, including information Austrade may hold in respect of Australian business registration details, the proportion of Australian ownership, and an assessment of the significance of the net return to Australia from the proposed activity.
Securency's bona fides as an Australian company seeking support for its activities overseas had been established for some time. Ministers and officials of the Australian Government have been making representations on behalf of Securency since the mid-1990s. For example:
- during a visit to Pakistan from 6 to 10 February 1998, former Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Downer raised Securency's interest in selling polymer banknotes with the Pakistani Minister of Finance and the Governor of the State Bank;
- during a visit to Chile from 5 to 7 September 2001, former Minister for Trade Mr Vaile discussed Securency with Central Bank President Massad;
- during a visit to Mexico from 7 to 9 September 2002, former Treasurer Mr Costello participated in the media launch of Mexico's 20 peso polymer note produced with Securency; and
- during a visit to India from 18 to 19 February 2003, former Minister for Trade Mr Vaile promoted Securency's polymer banknote technology to then Indian Minister of Finance Singh.
(6) and (7) Consistent with the portfolio's long-established practices, Ministers and officials of the Australian Government, including officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade, have provided advice and assistance to Securency since the mid-1990s.
The advice and assistance has been provided in Canberra and at multiple posts. It is not possible to provide a list of every instance of contact between DFAT and Austrade officers and Securency dating back to the mid-1990s, or of the associated cost.
The portfolio undertakes advocacy on behalf of Australian commercial interests overseas in a number of ways including:
- making government to government representations on behalf of the business or industry where
- Australian interest is served; and/or
- barriers to trade exist;
- facilitating contact between Australian businesses and the host country government and business interests, including through functions, promotional activities and participating in trade missions.
- Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7500
- Departmental Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555
Austrade provides services to Securency in line with the agency's role as the Government's trade and investment development agency.
Securency has contracted Austrade to arrange independent background checks on its network of agents. These checks are typically sourced through local third party service providers. Austrade also has a number of client service agreements to provide general information and marketing support in selected overseas markets, as requested by Securency.
The services provided by Austrade to Securency have been in line with those available to all Australian exporters and the majority have been on a fee-for-service basis.