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Thursday, 24 May 2001
Page: 26973


Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Community Services) (10:09 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

During the last parliamentary sittings, the Minister for Financial Services and Regulation, the Hon. Joe Hockey MP, introduced two bills designed to deliver a single national regime for corporate regulation and the regulation of the securities and futures industries. The Corporations Bill 2001 and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Bill 2001 were the first and main part of a legislative package to address legal uncertainties created by recent decisions of the High Court of Australia, supported by referrals of power from the states.

At that time the minister outlined the need for a more secure constitutional foundation for Australia's corporate law. The High Court decisions represent a serious threat to the national corporate regulation framework and to business confidence. This in turn affects Australia's ability to generate wealth and create jobs. The Corporations Bill and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Bill, and the enactment of related state reference legislation, will ensure that our national system of corporate regulation is placed on a sound constitutional foundation.

On 5 April 2001 the Senate referred the provisions of the new corporations legislation to the parliamentary Joint Statutory Committee on Corporations and Securities for inquiry and report. The committee's report was handed down on 18 May 2001. The government would like to thank the committee for delivering its report so quickly. In its report, the committee recognised the detrimental effect of recent High Court decisions on the current national legislative scheme, and concluded that urgent action is necessary to remedy the situation. While the committee noted that a constitutional amendment would be the most effective and permanent way to deal with the issues, it accepted that such amendment was not possible in the short term. The government thanks the committee for its consideration of the Corporations Bill and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Bill, and the government welcomes its unanimous recommendation that the new legislation be implemented as soon as possible. The bills introduced today will support and complement the Corporations Bill and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Bill.

Corporations (Repeals, Consequentials and Transitionals) Bill 2001

The Corporations (Repeals, Consequentials and Transitionals) Bill 2001 repeals the Commonwealth elements of the existing corporate regulatory framework—the Corporations Act 1989 and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 1989. It also repeals Commonwealth acts that formed part of the former cooperative scheme for corporate regulation that operated between 1982 and 1990. Various pieces of Commonwealth legislation refer to, or interact with, the existing Corporations Law framework. Provisions in the bill therefore amend Commonwealth legislation to take account of the titles of the new corporations legislation, and remove references to repealed legislation.

The bill also covers transitional arrangements for the Australian Capital Territory that relate to the Corporations Law and former cooperative scheme legislation. They complement the transitional provisions in the Corporations Bill 2001 applying to the ACT. It is expected that each of the states will enact complementary transitional provisions with a similar effect. Finally, the bill contains some amendments to the bills currently before parliament. These are in the nature of minor technical changes to the bills as introduced, in part necessitated by a decision of the High Court since the bills were settled. I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr McClelland) adjourned.