The Federal Labor party has outlined plans to establish a new Treasury based taskforce — the Competition and Growth Taskforce — to 'fill the gap' left by the abolition of the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee if they are elected to government.  

Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh has announced that if elected, the Federal Labor party plans to establish a Treasury based, Competition and Growth Taskforce to 'fill the gap' left by the abolition of the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee (CAMAC). Mr Leigh said that the taskforce will complement Labor's policies for the cooperative or mutual sector by streamlining regulations and breaking down barriers for new competitors.

Mr Leigh added that 'Through the Taskforce, Labor will look at ways to encourage managers to take a long view; examine the market concentration of firms and what steps could be taken to encourage capital ownership across firm types; and explore the recognition of non-corporate forms and potential government policy responses to the findings'.

Details

  • Composition: The Taskforce will be based within the Treasury and include staff from diverse backgrounds including not-for-profits, superannuation and the cooperative and mutuals sector.
  • Funding: The Taskforce would be allocated $3 million over the forward estimates.
  • Responsibilities: The Competition and Growth Taskforce's 'overarching responsibilities' will be to 'examine the structure, distribution and effects of capital ownership in Australia.' This will encompass issues tasked to it by government, and independent research and policy development.

Five immediate priorities

  • Corporate governance reform, 'filling the gap left by the abolition of the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee'. The Taskforce would be asked to immediately focus on completing the Annual General Meeting and Shareholder Engagement report that the CAMAC commenced.

[Note: CAMAC's discussion paper on AGM and shareholder engagement and submissions received in response can be accessed on the CAMAC website here.]

  • 'Guiding the remaining recommendations' of the Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into Co-ops and Mutuals

[Note: This appears to be a reference to the 2015 inquiry into the role, importance, and overall performance of cooperative, mutual and member-owned firms in the Australian economy. The report, the government's response (which was released 8 November 2017) and submissions can be accessed on the parliamentary website here.]

  • Reviewing national harmonisation of cooperative laws, including: a) exploring the referral of state powers (legislated under the Cooperatives National Law) to the federal government; and b) bringing cooperatives into the proposed Director Identification Number (DIN) regime.

[Note: Bills to introduce Director Identification Numbers and to 'modernise' business registers — The Commonwealth Registers Bill 2019 and the Business Names Registration (Fees) Amendment (Registries Modernisation) Bill 2019 were introduced during the last parliament but are not proceeding. The Bills (and related Bills: Business Names Registration (Fees) Amendment (Registries Modernisation) Bill 2019, the Corporations (Fees) Amendment (Registries Modernisation) Bill 2019 and the National Consumer Credit Protection (Fees) Amendment (Registries Modernisation) Bill 2019) were referred to the Economics Legislation Committee on 14 February, for report by 26 March. The Committee made three recommendations, including that the Bills be passed. See: Governance News 20/02/2019]

  • Making recommendations to government on small business transition policies – particularly in relation to small business owners who wish to sell their business to their employees upon retirement as a worker-owned cooperative.
  • Guiding policy on encouraging employee ownership, including employee share ownership schemes.

Industry response to Labor's announcement has reportedly been positive

  • Governance Institute of Australia (GIA) CEO Megan Motto is quoted as welcoming the announcement and approving of the Taskforce's immediate focus on completing the Annual General Meeting and Shareholder Engagement Report that CAMAC started. 'In an election campaign that hasn't had much of a focus on business and the regulatory burdens it faces, it's good to see politicians taking up the challenge…We support any measure by government to streamline regulatory burdens, boost growth and productivity, and encourage healthy competition.'
  • Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) CEO Angus Armour is quoted in The AFR as saying that it is importance to have an said independent expert voice on corporate law, 'with the speed and significance of changes to corporate law, there is a genuine need for a CAMAC-style function'.
  • The AFR quotes Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals CEO Melina Morrison as welcoming the announcement stating that 'rediscovering this transparent, member-owned business model can provide Australia with a model and a road map in an era in which we are all demanding more accountability of our institutions.'
  • In a statement, the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) has welcomed' Labor's announcement as a positive development for the sector.

[Sources: Andrew Leigh MP media release 02/05/2019; [registration required] The AFR 02/05/2019; [registration required — accessed via LexisNexis Capital Monitor] Customer Owned Banking Association media release 02/05/2019; MyBusiness 03/05/2019]