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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 12970

Mr RIPOLL (OxleyParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (13:03): I thank those members on both sides of the chamber who have taken part in the debate on the Personal Liability for Corporate Fault Reform Bill 2012. The reform of directors' liability is one of an ambitious package of 27 deregulation reforms that this government has been progressing through the Council of Australian Governments National Partnership Agreement to Deliver a Seamless National Economy to improve regulatory performance. The directors' liability reform commits all jurisdictions to significant law reform in line with COAG endorsed principles that will establish a nationally consistent and principled approach to the imposition of personal criminal liability on directors and corporate officers for corporate fault. The bill delivers on the reform through a package of amendments that, when passed, will bring all Commonwealth laws into alignment with the COAG endorsed principles and guidelines for the imposition of directors' criminal liability for corporate fault.

Reforming personal criminal liability for corporate fault in Australia is a significant red-tape reduction that will benefit all Australian businesses. Personal liability on company directors and officers has developed in a piecemeal fashion over many years and successive Australian governments across all jurisdictions have passed laws imposing personal liability for corporate fault with differing standards of fault and responsibility. The vast majority of provisions imposing such liability were contained in state and territory legislation. This has led to inconsistent laws and significant complexity and uncertainty for business. A consistent approach to applying personal liability for corporate fault by all jurisdictions will provide greater certainty for businesses that are subject to both Commonwealth and state or territory laws or that trade in multiple jurisdictions, thus helping to promote a seamless national economy.

Substantial work has also been undertaken by state and territory jurisdictions to deliver on this reform in line with their commitments under the national partnerships agreement. All jurisdictions are working to reform their laws to bring them into alignment with the COAG principles to achieve a more nationally consistent and principles based approach to directors' liability. This collaborative approach ensures that, when all jurisdictions have enacted legislation to meet commitments under the reform, there will be increased consistency in the imposition of personal criminal liability for corporate fault in Australia. Importantly, it will also substantially reduce the number of acts across all jurisdictions that impose this type of liability.

This bill implements the Australian government's commitments under the COAG National Partnership Agreement to Deliver a Seamless National Economy to reform personal criminal liability for corporate fault. This bill will significantly reduce the overall number of offences under Commonwealth law which hold a person criminally liable for the fault of a corporation. The passage of this bill will see the removal of several hundred offences across Commonwealth legislation. This will reduce the compliance burden on businesses without compromising the need to have corporate officers take due care in ensuring that their company complies with the law. It also ensures that under Commonwealth law, where a corporation has committed an offence, a person will not be found guilty of that same offence unless it is fair and reasonable to do so.

The COAG directors' liability reform is not just about reducing red tape or the number of regulations on the statute books; it is also about having smarter and more efficient regulation that achieves the right policy outcomes without creating unnecessary compliance burdens for companies. At the end of the day governments have an obligation to achieve a balance when it comes to deregulation reform to ensure effective and appropriate regulatory frameworks are in place to protect the integrity and confidence of the market. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.