On 16 May 2022, the AICD provided a response to the Government’s consultation on supporting economic resilience through regulatory responsiveness - lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and other shocks.
The AICD strongly advocated for urgent regulatory relief and flexibility required to support boards and organisations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular to enable virtual operations and accommodate the impact of public health and community safety measures. The AICD applauds the collaborative approach between Government, regulatory agencies and industry that has delivered the positive outcomes seen to date.
Our submission focuses on regulatory responses and policy areas that concern the governance of Australian organisations, including the obligations and regulatory expectations directors face. We provided the following comments:
- Australian Government regulatory responses to COVID-19 – decisive steps were taken by the Government and regulators during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to create greater flexibility for directors and organisations to meet their governance obligations while navigating public health restrictions. Effective examples include temporary changes to annual general meeting (AGM) and electronic documents requirements, financial reporting deadlines, continuous disclosure laws and a moratorium on insolvent trading liability – many of which have resulted in a number of permanent reforms which have been strongly welcomed by the AICD.
- Commonwealth-state regulatory responses – there was an opportunity for greater collaboration between the Commonwealth, State/Territory governments and regulators to streamline regulatory responses during COVID-19, particularly in respect of employers’ work health and safety (WHS) obligations and evolving pandemic conditions; and
- Existing laws and regulations – in most cases, the existing legal and regulatory infrastructure enabled the Australian Government and certain regulators to provide effective relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were examples of discretionary emergency powers utilised by Government and regulators that provided more effective responses than mechanisms such as ‘no action’ positions. The AICD would encourage embedding these types of emergency powers in the design of any future legislative or regulatory reform.
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