House prices surge on China black money; authorities dither

by | Jan 4, 2017 | Economy & Markets, Finance & Tax, Government

It is little wonder house prices shot up again last year: plus 15 per cent in Sydney and close to that in Melbourne.

Yes, interest rates are at record lows, that really helps. And yes, the flood of black money from China is a factor too. Australia is one of the world’s four top destinations for Chinese money-launderers. This from a Canadian expert this week:

There is no sign it will slow. The irony of our housing affordability crisis is that it is not the fault of the Chinese, but rather, of the Australian government which knows: 1. it can do something about it, and 2. it said it would do something about it 12 years ago.

We have just entered the ninth year of equivocation by assorted governments over anti-money laundering laws which should have been fully implemented by now. The first tranche of AML-CTF (Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act) legislation was introduced in 2006.

The second was supposed to be enacted in 2008. For the sake of stating the obvious, it is now 2017. The past eight years has been a dither-fest, a shaggy-dog story of ‘finalising industry reviews” and “consultation with stakeholders”, a festival of stonewalling.

The never-ending money laundering review

Who then are these “stakeholders”? Under the 2006 laws, banks and casinos had to fess up and disclose the source of their funds. Yet the second tranche covers accountants, lawyers and real estate agents. Naturally, they are not keen to disclose the source of their funds.

The Big Four are part of this caper – PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte – as are the lawyers and property lobbies. So your can bet your bottom money-laundered dollar there has been scare-mongering lobby tactics behind the scenes. These are the chief accomplices in the black market, Australia’s Chinese laundries if you like.

Solution to housing affordability staring politicians in the face

Looking at the evaluation by Canadian money laundering lawyer, Christine Duhaime, the figures are huge. And the methods of shifting this mooted $US2,000,000,000 are cited thus:

“According to the Bank of China, foreign nationals from China create fake business transactions with private companies that acquire bank accounts and the funds are transferred as ostensible business investments to the US, Canada, Australia, and Netherlands and they also buy real estate.”

So they park money here buying real estate, a market incidentally which is Australia’s largest but has no central market data available about either buyers, sellers, assets or prices.

Whose hands do these funds flow through before they get to the real estate agent? The lawyers and accountants who arrange the transactions. They know, often but not always, the source of the money but thanks to the connivance of successive Australian governments, they are not required to reveal it.

Sydney prices have doubled in ten years, and ran at a 10 per cent annual clip last month alone. The Chinese certainly have found a stable place to park their money, so stable it is supine; and things don’t look like changing any time soon, despite pressure from international authorities to properly implement the AML-CTF laws.

Solution to housing affordability staring politicians in the face


Michael West

Michael West

Michael West established to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.


  1. Avatar

    Good article, Michael.
    It’s quite clear that a crackdown on money launderers will affect property prices, which is why our MSM refuse to report like you have here.
    Our government is in bed with thieves.

  2. Avatar

    Governments of both sides of politics have been indulging in this societal rort for more than a decade.

    As ‘Gunnamatta’ at Macrobusiness proved back in 2013 the FIRB never ever looked at either veracity of potential offshore purchases of existing Australian dwellings, the volumes of money coming into the sector from offshore or the veracity of it in terms of it being free from corruption, or the impact on existing Australians. Both mainstream sides of politics simply do not care.

    The handing over to the ATO of the compliance of foreign buyers, which came after Kelly O’Dwyer acknowledged that FIRB had completely ignored the issue for a decade, began with a data matching ‘pilot project’ of about 900 sales which were cross referenced against visa compliance – it identified serious non compliance (about 230 instances), but the program has vanished into the ether.

    Similarly AUSTRAC, which is our supposed guardian against illicit funds distorting the local market has not identified one single case of funds coming into Australia, for use in the purchase of real estate, when even the Paris based Financial Action Task Force (trying to manage corruption proceeds funding terrorism) identified that Australia’s real estate sector was a magnet for such illicit cash flows. Read this report –

    Good on you for picking up this issue MW. The Macrobusiness crowd have largely fought a lone hand on it thus far.

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