Executive Summary

Australia is generally welcoming to foreign investment, widely considering it to be an essential contributor to Australia’s economic growth and productivity. The United States is the dominant source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Australia. U.S. FDI totaled USD167.4 billion in 2015.

Australia runs an annual current account deficit and, therefore, is dependent on foreign investment, both FDI and portfolio investment. Historically, FDI has been concentrated in the mining and resource sector. In the past few years, there has been a decline in mining investment but an increase in FDI in financial services and real estate.

While welcoming toward FDI, Australia does apply a “national interest” test to qualifying types of investment through its Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) review process. In 2016, the Australian government made several changes to the FIRB process to address national security concerns. This was in response to several high-profile asset sales of infrastructure and agricultural land as many State governments privatized assets to raise money either to spend on additional infrastructure or to address budget deficits. The new rules were intended to close gaps in the review system that allowed certain asset sales to take place without FIRB review and to ensure that national security was considered in determining if the sale was in the national interest of Australia. Under the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, all U.S. greenfield investments are exempt from FIRB screening. U.S. investors require prior approval if acquiring a substantial interest in a primary production business valued above A$1.094 billion (USD791.6 million).

In response to federal budget deficits and public perceptions of a lack of fairness, the Australian government has tightened anti-tax avoidance legislation that mainly affects multi-national corporations with operations in multiple tax jurisdictions. While some laws have been complementary to international efforts to address tax avoidance schemes and the use of low-tax countries or tax havens, Australia has also moved in its own direction and has gone further in its efforts than the international community. This trend is likely to continue in 2017.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 13 of 176 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2017 15 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2016 19 of 128 https://www.globalinnovation
index.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2015 USD 167.4 http://www.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2015 USD 60,070 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Australia is generally welcoming to foreign direct investment (FDI), with foreign investment widely considered to be an essential contributor to Australia’s economic growth.

A number of investment promotion agencies operate in Australia. The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) is the Commonwealth Government’s national ‘gateway’ agency to support investment into Australia. Austrade provides coordinated government assistance to promote, attract, and facilitate FDI, supports Australian companies to grow their business in international markets, and delivers advice to the Australian Government on its trade, tourism, international education and training, and investment policy agendas. Austrade operates through a number of international offices, with U.S. offices primarily focused on attracting FDI into Australia and promoting the Australian education sector in the United States. Austrade in the United States operates from offices in Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

In addition, state investment promotion agencies also support international investment at the state level and in key sectors. For example, Investment Attraction South Australia aims to drive inward investment for South Australia. Invest in New South Wales similarly seeks to promote New South Wales as an investment location.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Within Australia, the right exists for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity in accordance with national legislative and regulatory practices.

See Section 4: Legal Regime – Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment below for information on Australia’s investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment.

Other than the screening process described in Section 4, there are few limits or restrictions on foreign investment in Australia. Foreign purchases of agricultural land greater than AUD 15 million (USD10.8 million) are subject to screening. This threshold will apply to the cumulative value of agricultural land owned by the foreign investor, including the proposed purchase. However, the agricultural land screening threshold does not affect investments made under AUSFTA. The current threshold remains AUD 1.094 billion (USD791.6 million) for U.S. non-government investors. Future investments made by U.S. non-government investors will be subject to inclusion on the foreign ownership register of agricultural land and are also subject to Australian Tax Office (ATO) information gathering activities on new foreign investment.

All foreign persons, including U.S. investors, must notify the Australian government and receive prior approval to make investments of five percent or more in the media sector, regardless of the value of the investment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Australia has not conducted an investment policy review in the last three years through either the OECD or UNCTAD system. A WTO review of the trade policies and practices of Australia did take place however, in April 2015, and can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp412_e.htm 

The Australian Trade Commission compiles an annual ‘Why Australia Benchmark Report’ that presents comparative data on investing in Australia in the areas of Growth, Innovation, Talent, Location and Business. The report also compares Australia’s investment credentials with other countries and provides a general snapshot on Australia’s investment climate. See http://www.austrade.gov.au/International/Invest/Resources/Benchmark-Report .

Business Facilitation

Business registration in Australia is relatively straightforward and is facilitated through a number of Government web sites. The Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s https://www.business.gov.au/  provides an online resource and is intended as a ‘whole-of-government’ service providing essential information on planning, starting and growing a business. Foreign entities intending to conduct business in Australia as a foreign company must be registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). As Australia’s corporate, markets, and financial services regulator, the ASIC Web site provides information and guides on starting and managing a business or company.

In registering a business, individuals and entities are required to register as a company with the ASIC, which then gives the company an Australian Company Number, registers the company, and issues a Certificate of Registration. According to the World Bank ‘Starting a Business’ indicator, registering a business in Australia takes 2.5 to 3 days.

Outward Investment

Australia generally views outward investment positively, and as a means to grow its economy. There are no restrictions on domestic investors. Austrade offers assistance to Australian businesses looking to invest abroad.

Australia is a party to bilateral investment treaties with Argentina, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uruguay and Vietnam.

The United States and Australia signed the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) in 2004. In addition to AUSFTA, Australia has bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with Chile, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, and a multilateral FTA with New Zealand and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN), all of which contain chapters on investment.

Australia is currently engaged in bilateral FTA negotiations with the EU, India, and Indonesia, and in the following plurilateral FTA negotiations: the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP, consisting of the ASEAN + Six group of nations); the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); and a Pacific trade and economic agreement (PACER Plus). It has signed but not yet ratified the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The U.S. – Australia Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes has been in place since 1982 with amendments made in 2001. In addition to the United States, Australia has income tax treaties with 44 other countries and Taiwan.

On April 28, 2014, Australia signed an Intergovernmental Agreement with the United States to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and improve tax cooperation. Under FATCA, Australian financial institutions will be required to submit information on accounts held by U.S. citizens. The Intergovernmental Agreement will allow financial institutions to report the information via the Australian Tax Office under the existing U.S.-Australia tax treaty arrangements.

The Australian government has moved aggressively in efforts to fight tax avoidance schemes by multinational corporations. In some cases, it has utilized OECD Base Erosion Profit Shifting (BEPS) recommendations but has also moved further than the BEPS recommendations. In 2016, it implemented multinational anti-avoidance legislation that targets companies that do business in Australia without establishing a permanent presence. In 2017, the government expects to pass diverted profits tax legislation.

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Commonwealth Government utilizes transparent policies and effective laws to foster national competition and develop competition policy, and is consultative in its policy making process. The government generally allows for public comment on draft legislation and publishes and makes available laws once they enter into force.

Australian accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are transparent and consistent with international standards. Accounting standards are formulated by the Australian Accounting Standards Board, an Australian Government agency under the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001. Under that Act, the statutory functions of the AASB are to develop a conceptual framework for the purpose of evaluating proposed standards; make accounting standards under section 334 of the Corporations Act 2001; and advance and promote the main objects of Part 12 of the ASIC Act, which include reducing the cost of capital, enabling Australian entities to compete effectively overseas and maintaining investor confidence in the Australian economy. The Commonwealth Government conducts regular reviews of proposed measures and legislative changes and holds public hearings into such matters.

Australia subscribes to the 1976 declaration of the OECD concerning International Investment and Multinational Enterprises. The instruments cover national treatment and investment incentives and disincentives, and spell out voluntary guidelines for the conduct of multinational enterprises in member countries. Australia also subscribes to two OECD codes of liberalization, one covering capital movements and the other invisible transactions.

International Regulatory Considerations

Australia is a member of the WTO, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and became the first of the Association of Southeast Nations’ (ASEAN) ten dialogue partners in 1974. While not a regional economic block, Australia’s free trade agreement with New Zealand provides for a high level of integration between the two economies with the ultimate goal of a single economic market.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Australian legal system is firmly grounded on the principles of equal treatment before the law, procedural fairness, judicial precedent, and the independence of the judiciary. Strong safeguards exist to ensure that people are not treated arbitrarily or unfairly by governments or officials. Property and contractual rights are enforced through the Australian court system, which is based on English Common Law.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Information regarding investing in Australia can be found in Austrade’s Investor Guide at http://www.austrade.gov.au/International/Invest/Investor-guide . The guide is designed to help international investors and businesses navigate investing and operating in Australia. It is an online guide to the regulations, considerations, and assistance relevant to investing in, establishing, and running a business in Australia, with direct links to relevant regulators and government agencies that relate to Australian Government regulation and available assistance.

Foreign investment in Australia is regulated by the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and Australia’s Foreign Investment Policy. The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), a division of Australia’s Treasury, is a non-statutory body established to advise the Treasurer and the Commonwealth Government on Australia’s foreign investment policy and its administration. The FIRB screens potential foreign investments in Australia above threshold values, and based on advice from the FIRB, the Treasurer may deny or place conditions on the approval of particular investments above that threshold on national interest grounds. Following a number of recent investments made by foreign companies in key sectors of Australia’s economy, the laws and regulations governing foreign direct investment have been subject to a wide ranging and ongoing review.

In December 2015, the Government enhanced the enforcement of rules governing foreign investment in Australia and introduced a ‘national interest’ consideration in reviewing foreign investment applications. Changes made in the Government’s Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 provide for greater compliance powers to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and introduced strict new penalties for investors circumventing foreign investment rules. The Government also introduced a new agricultural land foreign ownership register to understand the nature of foreign ownership of Australian land. The ATO also collects information on the location and size of property and size of interest acquired on new foreign investment in agricultural land and residential real estate. Lower screening thresholds for agricultural land and agribusiness also mean that more agricultural investment is screened by the FIRB.

In February 2016, the Government announced its intent to implement a national register of foreign ownership of water access entitlements, which is intended to enhance transparency and assist in informing the Government and the community about emerging investment trends. The Government also announced new requirements on foreign investment applications to ensure that multinational companies investing in Australia pay tax on what they earn in Australia.

In March 2016, the Government announced that it would amend the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Regulation so that the FIRB could assess the potential sale of ‘critical state-owned infrastructure assets’ to private foreign investors. Starting March 31, 2016, the FIRB will formally review critical infrastructure assets sold by State and Territory governments.

Under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), all U.S. greenfield investments are exempt from FIRB screening. U.S. investors require prior approval if acquiring a substantial interest in a primary production business valued above AUD 1.094 billion (USD791.6 million).

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) enforces the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and a range of additional legislation, promotes competition, fair trading and regulates national infrastructure for the benefit of all Australians. The ACCC plays a key role in assessing mergers to determine whether they will lead to a substantial lessening of competition in any market. ACCC also engages in consumer protection enforcement.

Expropriation and Compensation

Private property can be expropriated for public purposes in accordance with Australia’s constitution and established principles of international law. Property owners are entitled to compensation based on “just terms” for expropriated property. There is little history of expropriation in Australia although a few U.S. investors have claimed certain commercial disputes should be considered expropriation. (See below description.)

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Australia is a member of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The International Arbitration Act 1974 governs international arbitration and the enforcement of awards.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is included in some but not all of Australia’s 21 BITs and 9 FTAs. AUSFTA establishes a dispute settlement mechanism for investment disputes arising under the Agreement. However, AUSFTA does not contain an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that would allow individual investors to bring a case against the Australian government. Regardless of the presence or absence of ISDS mechanisms, there is no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors in Australia.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

Australia has an established legal and court system for the conduct or supervision of litigation and arbitration, as well as alternate dispute resolutions. Australia is a leader in the development and provision of non-court dispute resolution mechanisms. It is a signatory to all the major international dispute resolution conventions and has organizations that provide international dispute resolution.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Bankruptcy is a legal status conferred under the Bankruptcy Act 1966 and operates in all of Australia’s States and Territories. Only individuals can be made bankrupt and not businesses or companies. Where there is a partnership or person trading under a business name, it is the individual or individuals who make up that firm that are made bankrupt. Companies cannot become bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act though similar provisions (called administration and winding up) exist under the Corporations Act 2001.

The Bankruptcy Act established the roles of Inspector-General in Bankruptcy and Official Receiver and Official Trustee in Bankruptcy, and the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) oversees each of these roles. The relevant courts covering bankruptcy are the Federal Court of Australia, General Division, and the Federal Circuit Court. Creditors can apply to the court to make an individual bankrupt if they can satisfy the court that a debtor owes them money; however, when an individual enters bankruptcy, this limits the rights of unsecured creditors to recover their debts directly from the debtor.

Investment Incentives

The Commonwealth Government and State and Territory Governments provide a range of measures to assist investors with setting up and running a business and undertaking investment. Types of assistance available vary by location, industry, and the nature of the business activity. Austrade provides coordinated government assistance to attracting FDI and is intended to serve as the national point-of-contact for investment inquiries. State and Territory Governments similarly offer a suite of financial and non-financial incentives. Australian and State and Territory Governments provide selected grants to businesses for establishing or expanding a business, or for specific activities such as research. The Commonwealth Government also provides incentives for companies engaging in research and development (R&D), and delivers a tax offset for expenditure on eligible R&D activities undertaken during the year. R&D activities conducted overseas are also eligible under certain circumstances, and the program is jointly administered by AusIndustry (Government agency) and the Australian Taxation Office.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Australia does not have any free trade zones or free ports.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

As a general rule, foreign firms establishing themselves in Australia are not subject to local employment or forced localization requirements, performance requirements, and incentives.

Under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015, telecommunications service providers are required to retain and secure, for two years, telecommunications data (not including content); to protect retained data through encryption; and to prevent unauthorized interference and access. The Bill limits the range of agencies that are able to access telecommunications data and stored communications, establishes a “journalist information warrants regime.” Australia’s Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act prohibits the transfer of health data out of Australia in some situations.

Real Property

A strong rule of law protects property rights in Australia and operates against corruption. Mortgages exist and foreigners are allowed to buy real property subject to certain registration and approval requirements.

Intellectual Property Rights

Australia generally provides strong intellectual property rights (IPR) protection and enforcement through legislation that, among other things, criminalizes copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting. The Australia Border Force reported seizing 190,000 individual items of counterfeit and pirated goods, worth approximately A$16.9 million (USD12.68 mn), during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. Australia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report or on USTR’s notorious market report.

Under the AUSFTA, Australia must notify the holder of a pharmaceutical patent of a request for marketing approval by a third party for a product claimed by that patent. U.S. and Australian pharmaceutical companies have raised concerns that unnecessary delays in this notification process restrict their options for action against third parties that would infringe their patents if granted marketing approval by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Australia was an active participant in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations and signed ACTA in October 2011. It has not yet ratified the agreement. ACTA would establish an international framework to assist Parties in their efforts to effectively combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, in particular the proliferation of counterfeiting and piracy.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.

Resources for Rights Holders

Contact at U.S. Embassy:

Michael Roberts
Deputy Economic Counselor
61 2 6214 5810
robertsmr@state.gov

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Australian capital markets are generally efficient and are able to provide financing options to businesses. While the Australian equity market is one of the largest and most liquid in the world, non-financial firms do face a number of barriers in accessing the corporate bond market. Large firms are more likely to use public equity and smaller firms more likely to use retained earnings and debt from banks and intermediaries. Australia’s corporate bond market is relatively small, particularly when compared to the government bond market, though this is showing signs of steady expansion. Foreign investors are able to get credit on the local market on market terms.

Money and Banking System

Australia’s banking system is robust, highly evolved, and international in focus. Bank profitability is strong and has been supported by further improvements in asset performance. According to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), the ratio of non-performing assets to total loans was 0.9 per cent at June 2016, slightly higher than 0.77 per cent at June 2015. Foreign banks are allowed to operate as a branch or a subsidiary in Australia.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The Commonwealth Government formulates exchange control policies with the advice of the RBA and the Treasury. The RBA, charged with protecting the currency, has the authority to implement exchange controls, although there are currently none in place.

The Australian dollar is a fully convertible and floating currency. The Commonwealth Government does not maintain currency controls or limit remittances. Such payments are processed through standard commercial channels, without governmental interference or delay.

Remittance Policies

Australia does not limit investment remittances.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, is a financial asset investment fund owned by the Australian Government and established under the Future Fund Act of 2006. The Fund was established to enhance the ability of future Australian Governments to discharge unfunded superannuation (pension) liabilities expected after 2020, when an ageing population is likely to place significant pressures on Government finances. As a founding member of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Fund (IFSWF), the Future Fund’s structure, governance, and investment approach is in full alignment with the Generally Accepted Principles and Practices for Sovereign Wealth Funds (the ‘Santiago principles’).

In addition to the Future Fund, the Australian government has created a number of ‘nation-building funds’, a Disability Care Fund, and a Medical Research Future Fund. A Building Australia Fund was established by the Nation-building Funds Act 2008, to enhance the Commonwealth’s ability to make payments in relation to the creation or development of transport, communications, energy, and water infrastructure and in relation to eligible national broadband matters. An Education Investment Fund was established to make payments in relation to the creation or development of higher education infrastructure, research infrastructure, vocational education and training infrastructure, and eligible education infrastructure. A DisablityCare Australia Fund was established by the DisabilityCare Australia Fund Act 2013, the aim being to reimburse States, Territories, and the Commonwealth for expenditure incurred in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 and to fund implementation of that Act in its initial period of operation. A Medical Research Future Fund was established by the Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015 to provide grants of financial assistance to support medical research and medical innovation.

As of December 31, 2016, the value of the Future Fund totaled AUS127.6 billion (USD 95.7 bn). The value of the Education Investment Fund totaled AUS3.8 billion (USD 2.85 bn); the Building Australia Fund totaled AUS3.7 billion (USD2.78 bn); the DisabilityCare Australia Fund totaled AUS6.2 billion (USD 4.65 bn), and the Medical Research Future Fund totaled AUS4.6 billion (USD 3.45 bn).

In Australia, the term used for a Commonwealth Government State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) is government business enterprise (GBE). According to the Department of Finance, there are six GBEs: two corporate Commonwealth entities and four Commonwealth companies. (See https://www.finance.gov.au/resource-management/governance/gbe/ ) Private enterprises are generally allowed to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to markets, credit, and other business operations, such as licenses and supplies. Public enterprises are not generally accorded material advantages in Australia. Remaining GBEs do not exercise power in a manner that discriminates against or unfairly burdens foreign investors or foreign-owned enterprises.

Privatization Program

Australia does not have a formal and explicit national privatization program. The Coalition government announced it would terminate its Assets Recycling Scheme, an initiative offering financial incentives to Australia’s States and Territory Government’s to privatize state government-owned assets and reinvest the returns into new, productivity-enhancing infrastructure. Individual state and territory governments may have their own privatization programs. Foreign investors are welcome to participate in any privatization programs subject to the rules and approvals governing foreign investment.

There is general business awareness and promotion of responsible business conduct in Australia. The Commonwealth Government states that companies operating in Australia and Australian companies operating overseas are expected to act in accordance with the principles set out in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and to perform to the standards they suggest. In seeking to promote the OECD Guidelines, the Commonwealth Government maintains a National Contact Point (NCP.) The current NCP is the General Manager of the Foreign Investment and Trade Policy Division at the Commonwealth Treasury, who is able to draw on expertise from other government agencies through an informal intra-governmental network. An ANCP Web site links to the ‘OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas’ noting that the objective is to help companies respect human rights and avoid contributing to conflict through their mineral sourcing practices. The Commonwealth Government’s export credit agency, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, also promotes the OECD Guidelines as the key set of recommendations on responsible business conduct addressed by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries.

Australia began implementing the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2016.

RBC is still an emerging concept and practice, and building institutional awareness and support for RBC remains an ongoing process. There is no formal approach to RBC at the national level. A number of independent NGOs and associations exist to promote and monitor RBC.

Australia maintains a comprehensive system of laws and regulations designed to counter corruption. In addition, the government procurement system is generally transparent and well regulated. Corruption has not been a factor cited by U.S. businesses as a disincentive to investing in Australia, or to exporting goods and services to Australia.

Non-governmental organizations interested in monitoring the global development or anti-corruption measures, including Transparency International, operate freely in Australia, and Australia is perceived internationally as having low corruption levels.

Australia is an active participant in international efforts to end the bribery of foreign officials. Legislation exists to give effect to the anti-bribery convention stemming from the OECD 1996 Ministerial Commitment to Criminalize Transnational Bribery. Legislation explicitly disallows tax deductions for bribes of foreign officials. At the Commonwealth level, enforcement of anti-corruption laws and regulations is the responsibility of the Attorney General’s Department.

The Attorney-General’s Department plays an active role in combating corruption through developing domestic policy on anti-corruption and engagement in a range of international anti-corruption forums. These include the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group, APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency Working Group, and the United Nations Convention against Corruption Working Groups. Australia is a member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery and a party to the key international conventions concerned with combating foreign bribery, including the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions (Anti-Bribery Convention).

Under Australian law, it is an offense to bribe a foreign public official, even if a bribe may be seen to be customary, necessary or required. The maximum penalty for an individual is 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of USD 840,000. For a corporate entity, the maximum penalty is the greatest of: 1) USD 8,403,000; 2) three times the value of the benefits obtained; or 3) 10 percent of the previous 12-month turnover of the company concerned.

A number of national and state-level agencies exist to combat corruption of public officials and ensure transparency and probity in government systems. The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) has the mandate to prevent, detect and investigate serious and systemic corruption issues in the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, the CrimTrac Agency, and prescribed aspects of the Department of Agriculture.

An Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) operates in New South Wales to investigate, expose and minimize corruption in the NSW public sector. Similarly, South Australia’s Office for Public Integrity and the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (SAICAC) is tasked with identifying corruption in public administration and investigating and referring for prosecution where appropriate. SAICAC’s jurisdiction extends to all South Australian public administration including state and local government agencies and officers, Members of Parliament, members of the judiciary, statutory authorities, and the police.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Australia has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

Resources to Report Corruption

Corruption and Crime Commission
86 St Georges Terrace
Perth, Western Australia
Tel. (08) 9215 4888
info@ccc.wa.gov.au

Independent Commission against Corruption NSW
Level 7, 255 Elizabeth Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Australia
02 8281 5999 (Australia)
icac@icac.nsw.gov.au

Political protests (e.g., rallies, demonstrations, marches, public conflicts between competing interests) form an integral, though generally minor, part of Australian cultural life. Such protests rarely degenerate into violence.

A number of laws and regulations exist to govern Australia’s workplaces, the most notable being the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Fair Work Regulations 2009. As the main legislation that governs the employee-employer relationship in Australia, it provides a safety net of minimum entitlements, enables flexible working arrangements and fairness at work, and prevents discrimination against employees. The Fair Work Act provides enforceable minimum employment terms and conditions through the National Employment Standards (NES).

The Australian Government provides assistance through a Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme to people owed certain outstanding employee entitlements following the liquidation or bankruptcy of employers.

Immigration has always been an important source for skilled labor in Australia. The Immigration Department has a ‘skilled occupations list’ (SOL) which can be used by potential applicants seeking to nominate skilled occupations which are acceptable for permanent and temporary skilled migration to Australia under the General Skilled Migration program, and the Employer Nominated Scheme. Applicants must have a nominated occupation when they apply which is applicable to their circumstances.

Most Australian workplaces are governed by a system created by the Fair Work Act 2009. Enterprise bargaining takes place through collective agreements made at an enterprise level between employers and employees about terms and conditions of employment. Such agreements are widely used in Australia. A Fair Work Ombudsman assists employees, employers, contractors, and the community to understand and comply with the system. The Fair Work Act 2009 establishes a set of clear rules and obligations about how this process is to occur, including rules about bargaining, the content of enterprise agreements, and how an agreement is made and approved.

As of March 2017, the unemployment rate in Australia was 5.9 percent. There were 254 industrial disputes in 2016, a 13% increase from 2015.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation excludes Australia, as it is not a developing country. The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) can provide financing and other services for major resource sector and energy projects in Australia which support U.S. jobs and exports.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International
Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat;
UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2015 $1.339 trillion 2014 $1.455 trillion http://www.worldbank.
org/en/country
 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source USG or International Statistical Source USG or International
Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat;
UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2015 $173 billion 2015 $167.4 billion BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_
multinational_companies_
comprehensive_data.htm
 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2015 $105 billion 2015 $42 billion BEA data available at
http://bea.gov/international/
direct_investment_
multinational_companies_
comprehensive_data.htm
 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2015 13% N/A N/A N/A

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Billions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 735.5 100% Total Outward 542.6 100%
USA 173.5 23.6% USA 105.3 19.4%
Japan 86.0 11.7% UK 81.3 15.0%
UK 76.0 10.3% New Zealand 60.5 11.2%
Netherlands 44.0 6.0% Singapore 21.2 3.9%
China 35.2 4.8% China 14.1 2.6%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity
Securities
Total Debt
Securities
All Countries 594,957 100% All Countries 374,331 100% All Countries 216,223 100%
United States 255,627 43% United States 176,150 47% United States 79,447 36%
United Kingdom 51,496 8.7% United Kingdom N/A N/A Germany 23,961 11%
Germany 31,045 5.2% Cayman Islands 20,367 5.4% United Kingdom 15,770 7%
Japan 28,298 4.8% Japan 18,206 4.9% Canada 11,374 5.2%
Cayman Islands 25,072 4.2% Switzerland 8,850 2.4% Japan 10,093 4.6%

U.S. Embassy
Moonah Place, Yarralumla, ACT
61 2 6214 5874
usrsaustralia@state.gov

2017 Investment Climate Statements: Australia
Build a Custom Report

01 / Select a Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future