James Moore: They're really tough on business Down Under

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Outlook Business leaders do love a good whinge, and right now they're queuing up to moan about the allegedly "anti-business climate" that has supposedly taken root in Britain.

Of course, when they talk of an anti-business climate. what they are actually referring to is the fuss about excessive executive pay. Which, they claim, is not reflected in more "business-friendly" places overseas whose citizens supposedly celebrate executives raiding the treasuries of the companies they run.

This analysis isn't entirely borne out by the facts. Pirc, the corporate governance watchdog which advises investors on how to use their votes at company annual meetings, shares an interesting little story from Australia in its most recent newsletter.

Just like in Britain, executive excess is attracting some degree of negative comment. Unlike here, the Government there has taken action: new reforms will force companies to disclose to shareholders through remuneration reports the steps they have taken to clawback bonuses and other pay where a material mis-statement has occurred in relation to a company's financial statements.

If the company has not taken action, its board has to provide a detailed explanation, and if shareholders are not happy with this they can vote against the remuneration report and boot out the board.

And there's more: A "two strikes" rule enables shareholders to vote whether to convene an EGM to fire the board if a company remuneration report receives "no" votes of 25 per cent or more at two consecutive AGMs. Crikey!

Over to you, Vince Cable.

j.moore@independent.co.uk

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