A Senate committee looking into Corporations Act amendments to better facilitate member advocacy efforts has ordered an appearance from the board of CPA Australia, and raised to ASIC the lesser transparency requirement of associations compared to listed companies.
At a public hearing held in Sydney yesterday, a Senate committee that included South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon and NSW Senator Sam Dastyari discussed an amendment to the Corporations Act, which would require email addresses to be listed on an association’s member register. The Corporations Act permits members to request a copy of the members’ register, but associations are not required by law to include email addresses on the register. The NSW-based accountant leading the CPA rebellion, Brett Stevenson, encountered this road block when mobilising protest action. The CPA Australia board sent a representative on their behalf to face the committee. Mr Xenophon, who introduced the amendment to the Senate in mid-June, said policy officers fronting a committee on behalf of CPA Australia were not sufficiently capable of addressing issues related to corporate governance and transparency. These issues include choices CPA Australia has made with its member communications, which Mr Xenophon questioned on censorship grounds, and the $4.9 million payout of former chief executive Alex Malley. Mr Xenophon also raised the issue of mandatory transparency requirements for professional associations, pointing to a larger systemic issue that has led to the current CPA corporate governance crisis. Mr Xenophon questioned ASIC – from a broader perspective, and not specific to CPA – if member bodies legally have lesser transparency requirements than publicly listed companies. By law, publicly listed companies have higher transparency requirements than member associations, ASIC said. This is irrespective of size, which Mr Xenophon pointed out is a significant consideration point when associations like CPA profit millions annually and represent over 150,000 members. “We would never discourage companies to go above and beyond the law if it’s going to encourage transparency,” the spokesperson said. “But yes, by law, the minimum requirements are lesser for an association.”
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