Queensland Law Society

Qld directors bear burden of government’s ‘haste’

Date 29 Jan 2013
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone (07) 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Fax 07 3221 9329
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society today said the government’s proposed directors’ liability reforms, hastily introduced without public consultation, would damage the state’s economic competitiveness.

President Annette Bradfield said the failure to consult has resulted in a missed opportunity to alleviate the burden of directors’ liability.

“We have three concerns regarding the Bill: first, the way it’s been introduced; second, it doesn’t resolve the issue it set out to fix; and third, it’s detrimental to Queensland’s professional and commercial competitiveness with other states,” Ms Bradfield said.

“So firstly, the government said there wasn’t time for consultation, yet two and a half months has passed between announcing there would be a Bill in parliament and then introducing it.

“Broad consultation on legislation at an early stage is the key to good law and minimises the need to raise serious concerns.

“Our concern is that Queensland directors will still suffer from a reversal of the onus of proof – violating a basic legal tenet when looking at responsibility for corporate wrongdoing.

“The Bill contains confusing Type 1, 2 and 3 liability provisions with corresponding assumptions of guilt for directors.

“There is no clear explanation why some offences still require a director to prove their innocence.

“In effect, the government has made it even more unclear, if that’s possible, whether or not a director is responsible for company misconduct in any particular case.

“Queensland has missed an opportunity to bring in clear law.

“It also risks being left behind as it’s entirely possible companies will decide it’s better to do business in other states where effective reforms to directors’ liability have been put in place.

“We were hopeful late last year when the government announced the reforms that it would redress major issues.

“We’re disappointed the proposed legislation has not done this.

“This is a concern for Queensland business as it could inhibit much-needed commercial growth.

“From a justice point of view, it reinforces the assumption of guilt rather than innocence.

“We strongly recommend the Bill be reconsidered.”