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Federal election 2022: Governance and risk checklist

With momentum building for a federal election, there are five key governance and risk management issues that need to be high on the agenda.

Governance Institute of Australia, on behalf of its membership of more than 8,000 professionals, will be advocating for real, meaningful change on the following governance and risk priorities in the lead up to the 2022 federal election:

  • a clear net zero roadmap for Australia
  • the introduction of a national ICAC
  • further modernisation of the Corporations Act and Treasury portfolio laws
  • cybersecurity boost
  • reform of national fundraising laws.

Australia’s net zero roadmap – where to now?

The end of 2021 was a turning point on national and global roadmaps to net zero as leaders, scientists, and policy makers from 120 countries gathered for the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

With business, across all sectors and industries, set to be tasked with delivering much of the transition to net zero, it’s time for a clear, meaningful roadmap from the federal government to help Australia get there.

Climate change presents both risk and opportunity and the need for firm, real action on climate change has never been more urgent.

Introduction of a federal corruption watchdog

A national anti-corruption body may not be at the top of every political party’s election wish list, but public sector integrity, transparency and accountability are essential for a well-governed democracy.

Australia currently finds itself in a heated political debate on this issue and developments in 2021 concerning state based anti-corruption bodies have created fears that two key governance principles — transparency and accountability — may be at risk in Australia.

Governance Institute made a submission to the Federal Government outlining our position on increasing the transparency and integrity of government.

We have advocated for some time that establishing a Commonwealth Integrity Commission would help hold politicians and public servants to account and will be particularly critical in preserving as we continue to move through the uncertainty.

We will continue to advocate strongly on this issue.

Updating the Corporations Act and modernising business communications

It has been a long time coming but we have finally begun to make progress on using technology to modernise holding meetings and signing and sending key documents with new laws passing parliament last week — just in time for the mini-AGM season.

Governance Institute of Australia has welcomed the milestone which is a major step in the modernisation of the Corporations Act.

These changes have been the number one issue for many of Governance Institute’s members since the onset of the pandemic when 1000s of organisations grappled with the prospect of holding a legally binding meeting – and signing and sending documents – with social distancing and lockdown measures. Our members want certainty as they look ahead to the 2022 AGM season.

It is also now time for the Federal Government to turn its attention to the other parts of the Corporations Act and Treasury portfolio laws that need modernisation.

These include:

  • broadening the class of documents that can be executed using technology
  • ensuring companies can communicate with their shareholders using technology
  • ensuring increased efficiency is the aim of modernisation – any proposed changes should not entrench inefficient manual processes.

Boosting cybersecurity

Coordinated national efforts to address the ever-evolving cybersecurity threat faced by Australian organisations are essential, but a policy vacuum on the issue continues to be somewhat pervasive.

Governance Institute is closely watching developments regarding the growing ransomware threat, particularly in relation to data and cybersecurity governance frameworks and policies, director’s duties, the skills composition of the board, insurance policies, regulatory compliance programs, data breach reporting and anti-money laundering (AML) and security of critical infrastructure.

One of our key concerns is that all levels of government coordinate to ensure better harmonisation between privacy, data breach, cyber security data sovereignty and critical infrastructure regulation to avoid overlapping and potentially inconsistent regulatory requirements.

We also encourage the Federal Government to provide adequate funding to continue to develop direct support and awareness raising measures for cybersecurity, privacy protection and digital capability building in smaller organisations and not-for-profits, as an alternative to an increased regulatory compliance burden.

National fundraising laws: next steps

Following a six-year advocacy campaign by the #FixFundraising coalition, of which Governance Institute is a member, the Federal Government late last year announced it will make reform of the charitable fundraising laws one its top 10 priorities in 2022 by developing a national regulatory framework.

Governance Institute CEO Megan Motto commended the decision saying: “This is a very welcome announcement from the Federal Government and the reform will help clean up the overlapping laws that only serve to hinder our charitable sector.”

It’s now time to see the reform process start in earnest.

Note: Governance Institute of Australia sought feedback from all major political parties about their policy positions on these issues but did not receive responses, except from the Australian Greens, by time of publication.

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