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Thursday, 22 November 2012
Page: 9514

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (13:20): The Personal Liability for Corporate Fault Reform Bill 2012 is part of the process to introduce sensible reforms to the laws imposing liability on a director for acts or omissions of their companies. We do not oppose this bill; it was Peter Costello, of course, who began the hard work to introduce reforms to this area of overregulation. It was a coalition government that tried to bring some sensible reform to this area of Commonwealth law.

The Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee reported to the then Treasurer in September 2006. That committee recommended a principled and consistent approach to personal liability across the various jurisdictions. This was taken up by COAG and is reflected in this bill.

The reform aims to harmonise the imposition of personal criminal liability for corporate fault across Australian jurisdictions; to remove regulatory burdens on directors and corporate officers that cannot be justified on public policy grounds, and there should be more of that; and to minimise inconsistencies between Australian jurisdictions.

Given that the changes have been agreed through a COAG process and are supported by stakeholders as an improvement to the status quo, the coalition do not oppose this bill. We do believe that more work needs to be done in relation to laws which reverse the onus of proof and/or impose strict liability, but that might be a debate for another day.