Queensland passes directors' liability amendments

Queensland reduces scope of executive liability in a move opposed by sections of the trucking industry

Queensland passes directors' liability amendments
Queensland passes directors' liability amendments
By Rob McKay | October 17, 2013

Queensland has passed as promised a reduction in executive liability in a move opposed by sections of the trucking industry.

Premier Campbell Newman (pictured) publicised the change 13 months ago as a business-friendly initiative, saying that the changes would mean "a director will only be personally liable if they encourage or assist in the commission of an offence or they have been negligent regarding its commission".

However, the move had already garnered opposition from the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) and the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), who see it as diluting chain of responsibility provisions.

In common with
most other industries and sectors, the Directors’ Liability Reform Amendment Bill 2012 amends certain Acts, in transport’s case, the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995.

In common with other Acts, it allows executives to use the defence that they "did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to have known, of the corporation’s conduct constituting its offence" or that they "took all reasonable steps to ensure the corporation did not engage in the conduct constituting its offence".

In judging "reasonable steps" a court "must have regard to whether the officer was in a position to influence the corporation’s conduct in relation to its offence".

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie says the number of potential liabilities is now down from 3,800 to 100 "and I think that’s a great result".

The legislation can be viewed here.

In voicing their opposition to the move last year, ALRTA National President John Beer and SARTA President Sharon Middleton sent emails to the industry seeking support.

"The facts are simple," they stated.

"Australia’s chain of responsibility laws save lives. They make life fairer for truck drivers and operators. By holding big freight customers and senior executives accountable, chain of responsibility laws make our roads safer for everybody.

The email claimed the laws are "under attack" and urged people to sign a petition addressed to Newman that argues against the removal of executive liability.

"Ministers from every state have already voted to remove 140 chain of responsibility accountabilities from the new national laws. We urgently need your help. We must stop any more cuts being made," the email read.

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