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Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Page: 3255

Mr JONES (WhitlamAssistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services) (09:42): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

There is nary a more exciting bill that gets moved before the House than the Treasury Laws Amendment (Modernising Business Communications and Other Measures) Bill 2022, and we have drawn a huge crowd here in the chamber for that purpose. At the outset I want to thank—

Mr Robert interjecting

Mr JONES: The member for Fadden makes a good point that a lot of staff in the Treasury portfolio agencies have been working very hard over the last 12 months to find technical anomalies and errors in the laws, and this bill is the product of their work, so I thank them for it.

This bill contains measures designed to maintain and improve Treasury portfolio legislation to ensure it remains current and fit-for-purpose.

This bill reflects the government's commitment to regulatory stewardship through regular maintenance and improvement of portfolio legislation. This program of work is ongoing, and the government intends to pursue regular improvement and maintenance opportunities, where possible, in conjunction with its wider reform agenda.

Schedule 1 to the bill will modernise several Treasury portfolio laws to improve their technology neutrality and address unnecessary barriers to the use of digital communications.

These amendments build on temporary changes—and many of them make permanent the temporary changes—introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow businesses greater flexibility in how they conduct operations and engage with consumers.

Schedule 1 to the bill will ensure that all documents required or permitted to be signed under the Corporations Act 2001 can be signed in a technology-neutral way.

It will replace outdated requirements to publish notices in newspapers. Notices will need to be published in a way that ensures they are reasonably prominent and accessible to the intended audience.

The amendments in schedule 1 to the bill make it clear that Treasury portfolio regulators can hold hearings and examinations virtually, and also allows more payments to be made electronically.

Together, these reforms will facilitate the use of digital technologies and provide greater choice to individuals and businesses in how they communicate and operate.

The government will continue to ensure that the legislative framework remains fit-for-purpose as technology continues to evolve.

The amendments in schedule 2 address complexity in the design of definitions in the corporations and financial services law, including by removing redundant definitions and using consistent headings for definition sections. These amendments, I understand, arise out of an initial response from the Australian Law Reform Commission and its report.

Amendments in schedule 3 to the bill transfer longstanding and accepted matters currently contained in ASIC legislative instruments to the Corporations Act 2001 and the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009. This will improve the clarity of the law, provide certainty, and make it simpler for regulated entities and consumers to understand their rights and obligations.

Schedule 4 to the bill makes a number of miscellaneous and technical amendments to Treasury portfolio legislation to ensure that Treasury laws operate as intended. The amendments variously clarify the law to ensure that it operates in accordance with the policy intent, make minor policy changes to improve administrative outcomes or remedy unintended consequences, and correct technical or drafting defects.

These amendments will make it easier for Australians to comply with current laws.

The Legislative and Governance Forum on Corporations was notified in relation to the bill as required under the Business Names Agreement 2009, the Corporations Agreement 2002 and the National Credit Law Agreement 2009.

In the normal way, the full details of the measures are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

Debate adjourned.