On 30 August 2022, the Indonesian House of Representatives agreed to pass a law ratifying the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the largest regional free trade agreement outside the World Trade Organization — involving 10 ASEAN countries and five non-ASEAN countries, i.e., China, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea. With the passing of this law, which still requires promulgation by the President, RCEP is set to come into force for Indonesia, possibly before the end of the year.
On 18 August 2022, the Federal Government released for consultation the Treasury Laws Amendment (Competition and Consumer Reforms No. 1) Bill 2022: More competition, better prices. The exposure draft legislation seeks to significantly increase the maximum penalty per contravention to AUD 50+ million for corporations engaging in anti-competitive conduct (including, for example, cartel offences, misuse of market power, and exclusive dealing) under Part IV of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 as well as for contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law. Penalties for breach of competition and consumer laws in Australia have increased rapidly in recent years, particularly in the context of consumer law contraventions, which will have seen an almost 50 times increase in the maximum penalty per contravention over a five year period (if the draft legislation is passed).
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has, again, extended the transitional relief period for Foreign Financial Services Providers for a further 12 months to 31 March 2024, through the introduction of the ASIC Corporations (Amendment) Instrument 2022/623 on 28 July 2022. ASIC has stated the Amendment Instrument was introduced to provide certainty for the industry given the lapsing of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Streamlining and Improving Economic Outcomes for Australians) Bill 2022.
On 25 July 2022, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner published Regulatory Guidance on the “Basic Online Safety Expectations”, which are provided for by Part 4 of the Online Safety Act 2021 (Cth) and the Online Safety (Basic Online Safety Expectations) Determination 2022. This comes a day after eSafety became entitled to issue notices seeking information from a wide range of online service providers regarding their compliance with the expectations.
We are pleased to announce that Baker McKenzie has published the FY23 edition of Directors Duties in Australia. This is a timely guide for directors of Australian companies, setting out pivotal issues for directors to consider in the current evolving corporate governance environment. Matters covered in the guide include common law and statutory duties, financial reporting, continuous disclosure, financial assistance, directors’ insurance and indemnities and other topical issues including climate change, cyber security and anti-bribery and corruption.
The Australian anti-money laundering and countering of terrorist financing regulator, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre has this week updated its guidance on reporting cash transactions above the AUD 10,000 threshold.
The new Australian Government promises nearly AUD 1 billion in investments to Medicare and general practices as part of a number of policy commitments to healthcare and aged care initiatives.
On 21 May 2022, Australia elected a new federal government, the Australian Labor Party. As part of its campaign, the newly elected Federal Government committed to a number of healthcare and aged care policy initiatives with a strong focus on improving quality and access to primary care.
On 2 June 2022, ASIC published the updated ePayments Code which it states will strengthen and clarify a number of existing protections for consumers relating to various forms of electronic payments. The Code has generally been the benchmark for consumer protections for payments and transactions that were triggered within the world of online and mobile banking. It has been an added level of regulation for its subscribers which include most banks, credit unions and building societies in Australia.
Securities law reforms aimed at making it easier for businesses to implement employee share schemes have been adopted and will become effective on 1 October 2022. Originally announced last year, the reforms change the way in which offers under employee share schemes are regulated. It is expected that the new law will replace the current exemptions from prospectus and licensing requirements contained in ASIC Class Orders 14/1000 and 14/1001.
The UK government has introduced a bill to help bring into force the UK-Australia and the UK-New Zealand Free Trade Agreements (“FTAs“).
The bill is a key step in ratifying the FTAs but before they come into force, Parliament must scrutinise the FTAs, agree the bill and pass secondary legislation to make the changes required to the UK’s procurement regime to meet the terms of the FTAs.