The Legal 500

Covid-19 – was your company fit for purpose? – Australia

27 August 2020, 4.00pm-6.00pm/ UTC+10/ Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST)

In Association With

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Covid-19 – was your company fit for purpose? – Australia


The Legal 500 and The Blended Capital Group convened their second event in a series of online forums for ten countries worldwide in Australia on 27 August 2020 (4.00pm-6.00pm Australia Eastern Standard Time (AEST)/UTC+10). Australian thought leaders from the business, legal and policy communities, joined by a number of international guests, answered whether corporate Australia was fit for purpose to handle Covid-19 and what next as business reality for the post Covid-19 era is explored?

Country context

Australia locked down early, created a widely heralded National Cabinet to forge a cohesive response to Covid-19 and managed to limit deaths from the virus to 128 by late July. However, a surge in infections saw the State of Victoria reimpose a lockdown on 9 July attracting global media attention and by 22 July the State recorded its’ peak number of daily infections at 484. Australia’s call during the World Health Assembly for an ‘impartial, independent and comprehensive investigation into the handling of the Covid-19 outbreak’ sparked a furious diplomatic response from China that looks set to threaten the two country’s critical trading relations.

Professor Paul Q Watchman, Honorary Professor of Law at Glasgow University, Scotland, and a former Senior Partner in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, chairs the global online process.

Global learning

Over five months the conversation will continue around the world. Initially convened in South Africa (18 June) and continuing now in late August in Australia, videos/summary reports will be published after each forum to help frame and inform the critical governance and legal questions which complex and fast-changing global health crisis poses for business. Resources for the process to date include:

Business Beyond Covid-19

The Future Fit Foundation leadership paper

As the global Pandemic proceeds, Australia, like many countries, is awakening to the real-world decisions and trade-offs for political and business leaders who are coming under intense scrutiny. When and how to start the economy? How to create economic growth which sustains a cohesive health system response and bolsters a country’s social safety net? How to ensure the cure is not worse than the disease? These most difficult of decisions will demand the wisest of counsel to ensure society-wide buy in.

Why the forum?

We asked Australia’s corporate sector:

  • Was it fit for purpose to handle Covid-19?
  • Did your company’s culture, governance mechanisms, legal infrastructure, and operations withstand the unimaginable complexity posed by the deadly virus?
  • Did corporate Australia justify their social licence to operate?


What legal, insurance and continuity lessons will we learn across different sectors?

  • How is your company exposed? How did you fall short?
  • Which company in your sector showed resilience through clear leadership? How can lessons be show-cased?
  • How are your Directors and Officers liable for the company’s performance during the crisis?
  • How will policy-makers and regulators address corporate failings in their human resources response
  • Did your company take the threat of systemic risks seriously?
  • How will investors view your company’s performance? Will investors seek legal redress from those companies where a sub-optimal response destroyed value?