ALRC’s final report on Australia’s corporate criminal responsibility regime

Attorney-General Christian Porter today tabled the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) final report on Australia’s corporate criminal responsibility regime, representing one of the most detailed examinations ever undertaken of the nation’s corporate accountability framework.

The Government commissioned the ALRC to undertake this inquiry to ensure Australia’s laws continue to serve as an effective deterrent against corporate crime and remain fit for purpose as a means of protecting consumers for the next decade and beyond.

The ALRC considered corporate liability mechanisms across 25 Commonwealth statutes and consulted widely with stakeholders across private industry, civil society and Government.

Its final report contains 20 recommendations targeted at strengthening criminal enforcement action against corporations, reducing regulatory burden for businesses through simpler and clearer laws, and changes to penalty and sentencing options.

The Attorney-General thanked the ALRC for its work and said the Government would now carefully consider each of the recommendations with a view to seeking opportunities for future law reform.

“I thank the ALRC for its strong stakeholder engagement and considered analysis that has helped to produce this report. I also thank Justice Bromwich for his expertise and assistance to the ALRC inquiry,” the Attorney-General said.

The Government has already taken action to remove unnecessary impediments to the investigation and prosecution of corporate crime, including through the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Combatting Corporate Crime) Bill 2019, introduced in December 2019.

This Bill will strengthen Australia’s response to corporate crime and incentivise corporations to implement and maintain effective compliance regimes.

The Bill introduces a new corporate offence for failure to prevent the bribery of a foreign public official by an associate. A corporation will be automatically liable for the offence unless it can show it had adequate procedures in place designed to prevent an associate from engaging in foreign bribery.

This legislation follows significant corporate sector reforms contained in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 which commenced on 1 July last year.

These reforms strengthened and expanded the protections for corporate sector whistleblowers who report corporate misconduct, and introduced a requirement for public, large proprietary companies and registrable superannuation entities to have a whistleblower policy.

The report is available on the ALRC’s website.

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