Weâ€™ve all heard over the years about the CSIRO and other Australian organisations developing great technology only to have it sold cheaply to someone overseas who commercialised it. Securencyâ€™s great success has come while remaining in Australian public hands. The transition from old-fashioned paper notes to polymer (like the ones we have) has been slow (because central bank customers are very conservative) but inexorable. The Ageâ€™s suggestion that Securency had â€œbribed its way to successâ€ (as they claimed this week) seems a little silly when you consider just how slow its steady progress has been. Bribes normally produce a quick result, one imagines.
Looking at Securencyâ€™s own list, we can see its progress has been slow, even equipped with an unmatched product. This is mostly due to the very cautious, conservative approach of folks who work in central banks the world over, no less our own. To the great credit of Securencyâ€™s people, we can see this year while being mercilessly hammered by The Age theyâ€™ve had a number of new markets trial the technology. Usually a trial of this great Aussie product leads to it being adopted because it performs much better, is much harder to counterfeit and lasts much longer than the old-fashioned paper alternative. Naturally, Securencyâ€™s competitors have not been happy about this.
THE AGE OF HYSTERIA
After a systematic campaign â€“ which many in Securency believe was sourced from foreign commercial competitors of the company who have been desperate to get hold of its polymer banknote technology after repeated unsuccessful efforts to invent their own versionâ€“ the Reserve Bank of Australia and the British private equity firm that owns the other half has finally buckled and agreed to sell the company. After the Ageâ€™s unrelenting campaign against Securency, you can hardly blame the owners for wanting out. Central banks take themselves very seriously indeed, especially on ethical matters, and to be accused of being involved in bribe-paying, even without evidence, has clearly been unbearable for the RBA.
One thing we learned by researching the banknote production business a little was that it attracts a disproportionate number of â€œspooksâ€ or ex-intelligence service staff who are perfectly capable of running â€œdisinformationâ€ campaigns. People with very high security clearances are needed in the banknote production industry so it certainly presents an opportunity for people from that background. Whether Securency has been a victim of this remains to be seen.
Itâ€™s very difficult to structure a VEXNEWS investigation around proving a negative, that a whole company and its agents were not engaged in corrupt practice, so we decided to wait and see. Looking at the RBAâ€™s announcement yesterday, this might have been a mistake.
NO CHARGES AT ALL AFTER 18 MONTHS
The Australian Federal Police has investigated the company and its current and former staff extensively over eighteen months. Not one of them has been charged with any offence. And the allegations made by The Age â€“ if true â€“ would constitute very serious criminal offences. White collar crime can take a long time to investigate but this is certainly taking a long time, leading some to believe there is no evidence of the bribe-paying or bribe-facilitation alleged by The Age at all.
And the end result of all this is best described by Nick McKenzie (who was involved in yesterdayâ€™s laughable beat-up that the ALP maintains an electorate office support database of voters) and Richard Baker today:
The sale of Securency will leave Australia with no control of the country’s banknote substrate supplies and leaves the company’s 150 Victorian workers facing an uncertain future.
McKenzie and Bakerâ€™s whole line of argument in countless stories is that it is inherently corrupt or suspicious to employ commission-based agents in overseas markets (rather than, say, employ staff in an office to help sell for you). They point to the fact that some of these agents nominated offshore bank accounts to receive their money. An act that looks dodgy here perhaps but given the nature of banks in some of the markets Securency was hoping to win over to its worlds-best polymer banknote technology, is hardly surprising. There wouldnâ€™t be an expat working in those markets that didnâ€™t keep most of their money offshore, VEXNEWS understands.
NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE OF WRONGDOING
The bottom-line is that for all the stories over 18 months The Age has provided no evidence that corrupt or bribe-paying activities actually went on.
Now that these lads have succeeded in â€“ by their own words â€“ leaving Australia with no control of the substrate supplies we use to make our banknotes and in leaving 150 Victorian workers in Craigieburn with an â€œuncertain futureâ€ weâ€™ll be taking a keen interest in whether there was actually evidence of corruption or whether they were unwitting dupes for Australiaâ€™s enemies.
The Australian government must take a very keen interest in the sale of this company to ensure the national interest is protected.
If Securencyâ€™s big bad UK and European competitors â€“ like the poorly performing De La Rue for example â€“ end up owning this unique world-best Australian technology that many have tried to replicate but none have succeeded, and there are ultimately no charges laid at all after their repeated corruption allegations, the lads will have quite a lot to live down.