Page 599 - Week 02 - Thursday, 14 February 2013
understand their obligations and to operate across jurisdictions. Likewise, it will also assist prosecutors who can use a consistent set of rules to prosecute breaches. Removing inconsistencies and arbitrariness from directors’ liability provisions also better aligns our laws with human rights principles.
I have given consideration to whether these changes will in any way lessen the ACT’s ability to protect itself from illegal corporate behaviour, in particular, as I have already mentioned, from potential corporate polluters. It does not appear to me that the changes will relax our protections or incentivise any directors to start flouting laws. In fact, I am encouraged by the potential for a simplified prosecution process for these particular types of offences. As I understand it, the range of inconsistent laws around directors’ liabilities provides a challenge for prosecutors. A series of different and ad hoc liability laws can actually create limitation on potential prosecutions.
I do want to note, though, that I think that ministers and their directorates should stay vigilant and ensure that the changes to directors’ liability do not have any unintended consequences and that the amended acts, such as the Environment Protection Act, the Heritage Act and the Tree Protection Act, continue to provide appropriately strong protections.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations and Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development) (12.14), in reply: I thank members for their contributions to this debate. The Directors Liability Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 amends a range of ACT laws to ensure that company director liability is appropriately cast as part of the national partnership agreement to deliver a national seamless economy. The national seamless economy project is designed to improve the environments in which Australian businesses operate and to enhance productivity in the national economy. It is being progressed through the Council of Australian Governments.
The amendments are not contentious. They do not reduce the criminal liability of company directors who are engaged in corporate crime. The amendments in this bill only affect deemed liability—that is, provisions which impose personal criminal liability on company directors as a consequence of the company or an employee breaking the law.
Across the ACT statute book there have been a number of ways to deal with directors’ liability. The amendments made by this bill will ensure that the territory has a consistent, principled approach to directors’ liability without affecting the rights of citizens and others affected by corporate wrongdoing. The amendments made by this bill are the result of an audit of the statute book undertaken across all ACT directorates. They will assist to achieve a nationally consistent and principled approach to the imposition of personal criminal liability of company directors and other corporate officers for corporate fault. I thank members for their support and commend the bill to the Assembly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.