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Key issues in whistleblowing reform


The key issues that will be the subject of stakeholder comment in the consultation being undertaken by the government at present include expanding the categories of whistleblower; extending the scope of information to be disclosed; replacing the ‘good faith’ requirement by an objective test requiring the disclosure be made on ‘reasonable grounds’; and whether anonymous disclosures should be protected. The other key issue is compensation for whistleblowers.

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When good governance is not enough


Late last year, the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled that the school authority of Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney is not able to satisfy the requirements of the Australian Education Act 2013 or be able to do so in the foreseeable future. The act requires, among other obligations, that all school authorities operate not-for-profit, be financially viable, be a ‘fit and proper person’, and ensure that funding provided is used only for school education.

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The whistle is blowing


After years of talk and any number of parliamentary inquiries into the need for reform of corporate whistleblowing, action is finally replacing words. The Australian Government has made commitments to extend the whistleblower protections in the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Bill to the private sector, support a parliamentary inquiry into whistleblower laws, set up an ‘expert advisory panel’ to develop draft legislation to act on the inquiry’s report and introduce legislation into parliament by December 2017. An ongoing Senate Committee is folding its inquiry into the one that has just been established, while the preliminary results of the Whistling While They Work 2 project have been released, providing evidence of what needs to change and how to improve it.

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Australia, take note — the charities sector has impact


The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) released the Australian Charities Report 2015 today, revealing the significant economic and social impact of the charities sector. Charities have a combined total income of $134.5 billion — an economic contribution of eight per cent of Australia’s GDP. The sector employs over 1.2 million staff, making it the second largest Australian sector for employment and has total assets of more than $267 billion.

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UK government consults on corporate governance reform


The UK government has released its much anticipated Green Paper on corporate governance reform. Concepts for consideration include a binding shareholder vote on executive remuneration packages; mandatory disclosure of fund managers’ voting records at AGMs; whether a new pay ratio reporting requirement should be introduced; and how boards can best take into account the interests of stakeholders other than shareholders, such as through stakeholder advisory panels or setting up direct contact between non-executive directors and employees to ensure their interests are recognised or appointing key stakeholders to boards. The concepts are intended to create 'an economy that works for everyone' and ensure 'the employee voice is heard in the boardroom', but have been criticised in some quarters as being too timid.

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AGM reform — common sense prevails


For some years, Governance Institute has been a lone voice calling for reform to introduce direct voting, a poll on voting on all resolutions rather than a show of hands and online voting as the default. Change is always hard to contemplate, but over the last 12 months or so, both the Australian Shareholders’ Association (ASA) and institutional investors came round to supporting voting on a poll on all resolutions, to ensure the will of all shareholders is recognised. And now directors are seeing the value of our recommendations for reform, with the latest AICD Directors’ Sentiment Index showing support for both direct voting and voting on a poll on all resolutions.

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