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Thursday, 17 February 2022
Page: 1016

Mr SUKKAR (DeakinAssistant Treasurer, Minister for Housing and Minister for Homelessness, Social and Community Housing) (11:26): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Modernising Business Communications) Bill 2022 (the bill) modernises several Treasury portfolio laws to improve technology neutrality across a range of business communications. The reforms will reduce business costs and better reflect the way Australians want to engage and communicate.

These reforms are part of the government's commitment to modernise business communications as part of our broader deregulation agenda. It builds on the recently passed reforms to the Corporations Act 2001 (the Corporations Act) in respect of meetings, meeting related materials and document execution.

The bill expands these reforms so that documents required or permitted to be signed by the Corporations Act can be signed in a technology-neutral manner. The bill expands the range of documents that can be communicated in either electronic or physical form to more chapters in the Corporations Act, including non-meeting materials to members, and takeovers and compulsory acquisitions. The bill ensures that members can choose to receive the documents in whichever way they prefer.

The bill legislates and expands the existing relief provided by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission to entities for sending documents to 'lost members', expanding the relief to cover all documents sent to members. The bill also proposes that entities will not have to send documents to a member whose contact details are known to be wrong and where the entity is unable to ascertain the new address of that respective member.

The bill also amends the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 and the National Credit Code to give more flexibility to consumers and credit providers to communicate in ways that best suit their own circumstances.

The bill more closely aligns the electronic communication requirements under the National Credit Code with the communications regime established in the Corporations Act. Credit providers can send documents physically, electronically as an attachment or by providing customers with enough information to access the document electronically. Where a customer has not nominated an address for communication, a credit provider will be able to send documents required under the National Credit Code to either the last known physical or electronic address of the consumer, with safeguards for existing customers.

Consumers remain able to specify their communication preferences and will be able to let credit providers know of their preferences in any appropriate manner, whether or not in writing. Credit providers will also be able to specify the groups of documents for these nominations.

Amendments are also made to several Treasury portfolio laws that make it clear that electronic payment options can be used.

Existing requirements to publish notices only in newspapers will be amended to provide greater flexibility and use of more modern communication methods. Advances in technology and changes in public engagement with the news mean that notices published in newspapers may no longer reach the intended audience in the most effective way.

Notices will need to be published in a manner which results in them being accessible to the intended audience, be it the public or customers, and be reasonably prominent. Entities can continue to publish their notices in newspapers where appropriate.

The government will continue to ensure that regulatory settings are fit for purpose by improving the technology neutrality of Treasury laws. This, ultimately, makes it easier for businesses to benefit from new technologies, invest and create jobs, both now and into the future.

Finally, I might add, the Legislative and Governance Forum for Corporations was consulted in relation to the bill and has approved it as required under the Corporations Agreement 2002. Full details of all of these measures are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

Debate adjourned.