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Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Page: 5804

Mr KEENAN (7:59 PM) —The Governance Review Implementation (AASB and AUASB) Bill 2008 is a relatively straightforward bill which would amend the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001. The bill aims to transfer the Australian Accounting Standards Board, the AASB, which deals with standard setting in the private and public sectors in Australia, and the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, the AUASB—we take the use of acronyms to whole new heights tonight—which is responsible for development of high-quality standards and related guidance for auditors and providers of other assurance services, from their current status under the Commonwealth Authority and Companies Act 1997 to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, which is a more appropriate act for them to be governed under. The Financial Review Council will provide responsible strategic overview of both to maintain consistency.

This bill results from reforms that were undertaken by the Howard government in October 2001 when it committed to improving the structures and governance practices of statutory authorities and office holders across the government. This resulted in the Review of the corporate governance of statutory authorities and office holders. Mercifully, this is commonly known as the Uhrig review because it was conducted by Mr John Uhrig. The review reported in 2003. It identified issues with existing governance arrangements and set about finding options to improve the performance to get the best long-term results from these statutory authorities and office holders, including the accountability frameworks.

Once the review was completed in 2007, Howard government ministers were required to compare the statutory bodies within their portfolios against the Uhrig review templates and principles and then implement any changes that became apparent. While governance frameworks and structures vary, they are ultimately subject to the FMA Act or the CAC Act. The difference between these two acts is that the CAC Act authorities are bodies corporate with separate legal identities to the Commonwealth and hold money and other assets in their own right while the FMA Act provides for clear lines of accountability to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation in relation to use of public money and other Commonwealth resources. Essentially one of the acts really deals with bodies of a more commercial nature.

In relation to the AASB and AUASB boards, the Uhrig review highlighted concerns with the governance framework and in particular with their status as within the CAC Act. Going forward it became clear the structure of these boards was more consistent with the framework outlined in the FMA Act framework. Essentially the bill that we are debating today is a rather technical bill, but it is a continuation of the very good work that the Howard government did when it comes to corporate governance in Australia. The opposition supports the bill and we urge the House to pass it unamended.