Tens of thousands of people are trying to stop the Turnbull government from trying to privatise ASIC’s corporate registry.

Nearly 40,000 Australians have signed a petition that warns the sale of such a vital piece of governmental machinery will jeopardise the ability to root out corporate wrongdoing.

The petition was set up by leftwing activist group GetUp, which argues that the privatisation is an “all-out attack” on corporate transparency in Australia.

Closing the blinds on the corporate regulator would certainly hinder journalists’ and academics’ abilities to conduct investigations.

In fact they are already behind, given locals pay some of the highest fees in the world to access corporate data.

It is assumed that whatever private bidder might win control of ASIC’s registry, it would not go on to make the body more transparent, or reduce the cost of accessing data.

The Turnbull government has managed to keep criticism of the sale out of the headlines and is now nearing the end of the tender process, which is due on August 29.

Dozens of companies and digital rights advocates have signed a joint letter imploring the Prime Minister to reconsider.

“The ASIC corporate register is currently relied upon by law enforcement agencies, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Tax Office, in identifying company ownership and location,” the letter states.

“Placing this register in private hands risks undermining a range of law enforcement activities as well as Australia’s attempts to curb money laundering and the financing of terrorism.”