House debates

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


Corporations Amendment (Auditor Registration) Bill 2016; Second Reading

1:16 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Deputy Speaker Kelly. I commend you on remembering the changed name of my seat!

I rise to speak on the Corporations Amendment (Auditor Registration) Bill 2016. I am delighted to have the opportunity to outline Labor's position with respect to this bill. The bill, as presented, is worthy of the support this House and, indeed, enjoyed Labor's support when introduced to the House in the last parliament. But, like so much of the legislation that was before the House, it was trampled in the rush to the polls the Prime Minister engaged in for his own political benefit.

When will that joint sitting take place? Australians are thinking to themselves, 'Well, we had a double dissolution. Doesn't a double dissolution normally get followed by a joint sitting?'

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Development and Infrastructure) Share this | | Hansard source

He prorogued it!

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

As the member for Whitlam said, the parliament was prorogued for a very specific purpose and yet, now, surprisingly little is heard of that joint sitting. This bill could have been passed in the 44th Parliament, as it enjoyed bipartisan support. That is not the first bill this week that I have said that of—I spoke on another bill, just yesterday, that enjoyed bipartisan support but whose reforms were delayed. Indeed, the income tax cut for Australians earning over $80,000 a year was deferred. Australians will miss out on the first three months of benefit from that income tax cut as a result of this government trampling bills in its wake as it raced to the polls.

In this case, the bill's contents are fairly technical, but they go to the heart of ensuring we have a robust and stable financial system. As is appropriate, the federal government imposes regulatory requirements on the conduct of registered company auditors, whether individuals or firms, in an effort to safeguard investors and to improve the integrity and stability of our financial system and the broader economy. This bill seeks to assist in those efforts by addressing the legal consequences of not registering, in contravention of the Legislation Act 2003, the approval by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in November 2004 of one these auditing competency standards. ASIC approved an auditing competency standard in 2004, produced by Chartered Practicing Accountants Australia—what is now known as Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.

But the Legislation Act 2003 required that legislative instruments made in 2004 were registered on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments and in the case of the aforementioned CPA/ICAA standard, this did not occur. The failure to lodge the instrument has had the effect that the CPA/ICAA standard is taken to have been repealed. The practical effect of that is that from 2 December 2005 the legal validity of auditors registered in reliance on the standard has been uncertain. This bill remedies that by amending the Corporations Act to retrospectively ensure that the Legislation Act has always had effect, as if approval of the CPA/ICAA competency standard had been lodged and registered immediately after it was given, and that all other requirements of the Legislation Act are taken to have been met.

Retrospective legislation is rarely acceptable to this side of the House, but, in an instance in which we are clarifying widely understood practice, it is indeed appropriate. That is what this bill before the House does, and I am pleased to say that it enjoys bipartisan support in the 45th Parliament, as it did in the 44th Parliament.

Debate adjourned.