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President's foreword

On behalf of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), I present the Annual Report for 2020–21.

The ALRC is an independent statutory agency for law reform, which is respected by Government and the community as a centre of excellence. It sits within the Attorney-General’s portfolio and supports the Attorney-General and the Australian Government by providing evidence-based research to inform government decisions about the development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes.

When I presented our last Annual Report, I noted the tremendous challenges faced by Australia and the World. The period 2020–2021 has proved to be no different and despite those challenges, it has been a productive year for the ALRC. During this year, the ALRC commenced a three-year inquiry into the simplification of corporations and financial services laws. This important project has seen the ALRC engage with a broad range of stakeholders and build its data and research capacity. I wish to thank Dr Andrew Godwin and Micheil Paton who have led this inquiry with aplomb and thank the new legal officers who joined the inquiry bringing new perspectives, and enthusiasm. During 2020–21, the Corporate Crime final report was tabled in Parliament and the ALRC also commenced an Inquiry into impartiality and the law on bias as relates to the federal judiciary. Building on the ALRC’s long track record of public outreach, it has also been a year of significant public engagement through well-attended public seminars and webinars, publications in peer-reviewed academic journals, professional consultations Australia-wide, and an active social media presence.

I acknowledge the important contribution of standing part-time Commissioner the Hon Justice John Middleton to each of the ALRC’s inquiries in 2020–21 and again thank him for his ongoing assistance and wise counsel. I also acknowledge the appointment of the Hon Justice Craig Colvin as a part-time Commissioner on 18 February 2021 for a term to expire on 30 November 2023. His expertise relating to the review of the corporation and financial services regulation is a welcome addition to the ALRC’s existing capabilities.

Many thanks must go to the members of our Advisory Committees, whose thoughtful contributions provide additional guidance as we explore the issues raised by each inquiry, and to the many organisations and individuals who contribute as stakeholders to our inquiries through consultations and submissions. Strong engagement of stakeholders is a defining and enduring feature of ALRC inquiries, and is key to the high quality of ALRC reports and to developing robust and achievable recommendations.

I wish to acknowledge the excellent work of each of our legal officers who have performed exceptionally during the year. The ALRC’s staff have been ably led by our General Counsel, Matthew Corrigan, who I thank for his dedication and assured leadership. I wish also to record my thanks to our Executive Assistant, Claudine Kelly, our Communications and Events Co-ordinator, Nadine Davidson-Wall, and our excellent legal team without whom the work of the ALRC could not be accomplished.

In the year ahead, the ALRC will continue its work on the legislative framework for the corporations and financial services regulation. We will also complete the inquiry into the laws relating to impartiality and bias as they apply to the federal judiciary. We look forward to undertaking this important work in the coming year.

The Hon Justice S C Derrington