The Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (the Corporations Act, or CA 2001) is an Act of the Commonwealth of Australia which sets out the laws dealing with business entities in Australia at federal and interstate level. It deals primarily with companies but also with other entities, such as partnerships and managed investment schemes. The Act is the primary basis of Australian corporations law.
The Corporations Act is the principal legislation regulating companies in Australia. It regulates matters such as the formation and operation of companies (in conjunction with a constitution that may be adopted by a company), duties of officers, takeovers and fundraising.
Australian corporate law was the subject of a successful high court challenge in New South Wales v Commonwealth (1990) 169 CLR 482 ('The Corporations Act Case'). In that case, the Commonwealth was found to have insufficient power to legislate in relation to the formation of companies. Section 51(xx) of the Australian Constitution was found to provide sufficient power for legislation applicable only to foreign corporations and corporations already formed within the Commonwealth. This decision led to the creation of a co-operative scheme, involving a referral of power from the Australian states. All Australian states have adopted the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).
Under the Corporations Agreement between the states and the Commonwealth, all changes to the Act must be referred to the Ministerial Council for Corporations (MINCO) for approval. The co-operative scheme has come under pressure in recent times as the Commonwealth Government has sought to rely on the corporations power to legislate for its industrial relations reform agenda. This has led to some Labor states threatening to withdraw from the Corporations Agreement.
The Act is published in five volumes covering a total of ten chapters. The chapters have multiple parts, and within each part there may be multiple divisions. Each chapter contains a collection of sections.