Discussion paper

Corporations play a major role in Australian democracy. They lobby governments for favourable policy outcomes. They make substantial donations to political parties and sometimes run overtly political advertising campaigns. Executives use the public profile of their companies to influence debate and are often members of politically active trade associations, such as the Business Council of Australia.

Despite the influence of corporations on Australian politics, relatively little attention is paid to how corporations operate as political actors or why their internal governance is structured the way it is. While corporations influence government policy, governments also have a role in shaping policy around corporate governance. Governments can change legislation to manage corporate influence and policy.

This paper reviews the federal policies of political parties to identify which policies – if any – address corporate governance and the role of corporations in Australian democracy. It takes an expansive view of corporate governance, considering how government policy may constrain or shape how companies form themselves, operate and report, as well as the constitution of management and boards.

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