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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 12969

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (13:00): I want to commend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer for the great work he has done. He has been a real champion of reform in these areas and work in relation to the Storm inquiry when he was the chair of a parliamentary committee. My friend the member for Oxley has been a big advocate for reform in these areas in the past and I am pleased that in his current role he has undertaken this work. The genesis of this legislation came about in 2008 when the Labor Party took an approach in the 2007 election that we would do this kind of good work, which had been argued for for quite some time. It came about through a COAG process where they agreed to the reform of personal criminal liability.

This bill is about the specific form of derivative liability. It is a situation where a director or a corporate officer could be found to be criminally liable for the acts of the corporation they serve. It may be the case that that person is found in those circumstances, where they may not have had particular intent or knowledge, and they had not acted recklessly in relation to the particular issue. What distinguishes this sort of liability is that they could be found liable simply because they are a director of a company that has committed the offence. The offence will continue to apply in relation to the company.

There are some amendments in relation to the Corporations Act, the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act, the Health Insurance Act and the Therapeutic Goods Act. To be very specific, these acts are amended to remove the imposition of personal criminal liability for corporate fault except where the director or officer knew of the offence, was involved in the offence or failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the offence, such as putting appropriate procedures in place to prevent the offence—in other words, acted recklessly—or if the harm that the offence causes is of a serious public interest nature, particularly in terms of the protection of public health and safety and the like, or if corporate penalties alone would be ineffective to prevent the conduct in question. This is particularly a pro-business and pro-economic approach. It also helps those businesses that are across jurisdictions.

I can recall my former lecturer in government at the University of Queensland a long time ago, Ken Wilshire, saying that these types of things, with the oddities and eccentricities of the federal jurisdiction that we have today, used to cause him sleeplessness at night. There is quite strange behaviour because of the way the Federation that we call Australia was created. So, this is a good approach. It means that we will have consistency across the length and breadth of the country. It is a very pro-business and pro-company reform. I commend it to the House and thank the member for Oxley for his great work in this area.