CSA’s governance priorities for incoming government

Referring powers to the Commonwealth to enhance productivity in the private and not-for-profit sectors heads the list of policy imperatives Australia’s peak body for governance and risk professionals will campaign on with the next Federal Government.

In addition to a referral of powers from the states to the Commonwealth, Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA) will also campaign for:

  • an amendment to the Corporations Act to introduce a safe harbour protection for directors and officers
  • better quality corporate reporting
  • non-controversial amendments to the Corporations Act to provide for more constructive engagement between investors and companies at AGMs
  • measures for enhancing the quality and efficiency of proposed  legislation to ensure it is effective and achieves the desired policy objectives.

According to CSA chief executive Mr Tim Sheehy “Australia continues to suffer from a duplication of compliance obligations on a number of fronts.

“For example, attempts to harmonise occupational health and safety legislation are floundering, with companies continuing to have to meet multiple and at times conflicting workplace health and safety legislative obligations in different jurisdictions, which in turn is undermining productivity.”

Equally, a referral of powers is long overdue in the not-for-profit sector.

“While CSA has been a staunch supporter of the NFP regulatory reform process, we have been concerned that there is the potential for a duplication of compliance obligations while state regulation continues alongside national regulation. Any obligation to manage dual compliance obligations is at odds with the notion of reducing red tape, which has been recommended in multiple inquiries into the regulation of the NFP sector over many years,” Mr Sheehy added.

CSA is also of the strong view that it would be difficult for Australian companies to move towards better corporate reporting without the introduction of a safe harbour provision for directors and officers.

And while ideas for reform of the AGM range from abolishing it entirely to tinkering around the edges, CSA believes that, regardless of the fact that the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee (CAMAC) recommendations on the future of the AGM are yet to be released, there are a couple of quick wins that could assist the existing AGM to work better.

According to Mr Sheehy “We live in a vastly different world than the 19th century one that existed when the rules for the AGM were enshrined. Today, shareholders are dispersed geographically and can number in the thousands.

“And as technology is opening up many other effective channels of communication for shareholder engagement, CSA wantsthe Corporations Act to be amended to move to receiving meetings materials electronically, to implement direct voting in its entirety and mandate voting via a poll.”

And finally, CSA is urging the new government to articulate a clear commitment to improved processes to avoid unnecessary regulation and to enhance the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of new regulations.

This could be achieved through extensive stakeholder engagement consultation prior to any new proposals being developed, the formation of a Corporations Law and Governance Taskforce and a drafting advisory group, and the introduction of staged reform.

“We are of the strong view that if implemented, these policy priorities will foster greater confidence in our capital markets, enhance the performance of Australian organisations and substantially reduce the burden of continually increasing legislative and regulatory compliance.

“Above all, these policy priorities have the capacity to improve Australia’s productivity,” Mr Sheehy said. 

For further information contact Viv Hardy at CallidusPR on (02)9283 4113/ 0411 208 951 or Tim Sheehy on 02 9223 5744 or 0419 490 594

About Chartered Secretaries Australia

Chartered Secretaries Australia (CSA) is the peak body for over 7,000 governance and risk professionals. It is the leading independent authority on best practice in board and organisational governance and risk management. Our accredited and internationally recognised education and training offerings are focused on giving governance and risk practitioners the skills they need to improve their organisations’ performance and are ‘first-choice’ options for those intent on pursuing a C-suite career. CSA has unrivalled depth and expertise as an independent influencer and commentator on governance and risk management thinking and behaviour in Australia.

MR/2013/17

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