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Regulatory relief in sight for lawyers

Regulatory relief in sight for lawyers

THE FEDERAL Government’s “package of ideas” designed to reduce Australia’s regulatory and compliance burden, released last week, will assist lawyers advise their clients and conform…

THE FEDERAL Government’s “package of ideas” designed to reduce Australia’s regulatory and compliance burden, released last week, will assist lawyers advise their clients and conform to legislation, according to a leading lawyer.

‘Rethinking Regulation’ pinpoints specific problems that have been recognised by the industry for a long time, Freehills partner Michael Vrisakis told Lawyers Weekly.

“There is quite a miscellany of legislative reforms the government has put together in this paper. I think it does reflect to a large extent a lot of specific issues that have been pinpointed by the industry over a period of time, certainly at least in the last two years,” said Vrisakis.

“There has obviously been a lot of thorough and specific input that has been provided to the government and by the government in relation to the checklist of points that they have put forward. They are far reaching and from my experience they do reflect a lot of the practical irritations that people have with the current system.”

Vrisakis said the package of ideas is broad reaching. The issues traverse financial services reform and company reporting, through to corporate governance, and dealing with the regulators. “What they do have in common is an emphasis on and focus on reducing excess information, for example avoiding duplication of information and allowing potentially more incorporation by reference,” he said.

“It also does simplify some of the inherent intricacies and doubling up in the legislation, so from that point of view I think it is going to assist the industry and lawyers dealing in these areas. There are a large number of points where the reforms, if implemented, will introduce a greater logic into the system and I think lawyers will respond well to that.”

As well, the major reforms to red tape might signal a reversal to Australia’s regulatory “blow out”, the Business Council of Australia (BCA), said last week. The BCA noted that the “big problem” with regulation making in Australia is that it is uncoordinated. BCA president Michael Chaney said governments have few processes in place to prevent a ‘regulate first, ask questions later’ mindset.

“The result is a massive increase in regulation in recent years, duplication and contradictions between rules and regulations between governments, with the resulting cost and complexity being borne by business and the community.

Vrisakis observed that the changes will help lawyers advise their clients and will help their clients conform to legislation in a more streamlined and systematic way. “From that point of view I think there is a lot of common sense that is built into these rules. I suspect that a lot of the suggestions emanated at least in part from lawyers working in this area as well as from industry bodies.”

“To that extent I can identify many of the issues that as a lawyer, I have come across and others have come across — and this has been filtered through in to the system. This is an encouraging sign that the system of infusion of regulatory feedback is working.”

Vrisakis also noted some “quite interesting” and useful suggestions such as product rationalisation. “This is about ways to streamline older style products that financial participants offer in the marketplace.” He argued that this will mean quite substantial changes to the law if they go down that path.

“Again I think lawyers will respond well to that because I think it’s been a thorn in the side for both industry and lawyers to have products that can’t be streamlined because the legislative framework is too unwieldy at the moment.”

“I think it looks pretty positive. There are possibly one or two things that might be a bit contentious, but by and large I think the majority of initiatives the industry will look favourably on.”

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