AICD submission on Modernising Business Communications

Thursday, 18 March 2021

On 26 February 2021, the AICD lodged a submission on the Modernising Business Communications consultation aimed at improving the technology neutrality of Treasury’s portfolio laws.

The AICD strongly supports the Government’s initiatives to modernise and upgrade Treasury’s portfolio laws. Modernising Australia’s governance and corporate law settings is an obvious and critical priority, with benefits to stakeholders and organisations across the community.

COVID-19 and the resulting need for emergency legislative relief in relation to virtual meetings and electronic signatures has revealed where regulation has become dated and inflexible.

To accelerate economic recovery, Australia needs to step away from incrementally adapting to developments in technology and innovation, towards an agile, updated and fit-for-purpose regulatory environment. By making regulation technology-neutral, organisations will be nimbler in adapting to business and shareholder/member needs and will encourage innovation and reinvigoration of corporate governance regulation.

In response to Government’s consultation, the AICD supports flexibility under Treasury portfolio laws to permit:

  • entities to use electronic communications as the ‘default’ method of communication, while retaining the ability for recipients to elect to receive hard copy mail on an ‘opt-in’ basis;
  • regulators to use electronic communications as the ‘default’ method to collect information and receive communications, while retaining flexibility for regulators to prescribe an alternative format where there is a sound policy rationale;
  • regulators to conduct hearings virtually as the ‘default’ format, provided parties retain an ability to request in-person hearings where such format is preferred;  
  • electronic signatures be made permanent for a broader range of legal and company documents across all Treasury portfolio laws, and that further consideration be given to harmonising the approach to signing deeds electronically across all Australian jurisdictions; and
  • entities to elect the manner in which they record and retain records, including in electronic form, more broadly under Treasury portfolio laws.

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