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Company directors see need to improve corporate culture, and more optimistic post Brexit, Trump shock

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Greg Medcraft's message for boards to take greater responsibility for corporate culture may finally be getting through to the nation's company directors.

The outgoing Australian Securities and Investments Commission ASIC boss had called on directors stop being "hands off" and get their "noses in" within their organisations.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) latest Director Sentiment Index reveals directors know it's time to act.

About 90 per cent of almost 1000 directors surveyed reported that Australian business needs to make improvements in relation to corporate culture.

AICD Chairman Elizabeth Proust said it was now a much-discussed topic at the board table.

"A focus on culture over the long-term is critical for management and boards of all organisations," she said.

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"This is a complex task that requires sustained effort."

The survey, conducted between September 21 and October 4, also found that directors are more optimistic about the outlook for the Australian economy than they've been since 2011.

It said 57 per cent of directors expect their business to expand over the coming year. 

Directors are more positive about wages growth and decreasing unemployment.

AICD Chief Economist Stephen Walters said the increase in optimism follows improved prospects for the US economy after the initial shock of the election of President Trump.

Directors were also more positive about European economy after initial Brexit worries, he said.

"Maybe directors are realising that their worst fears weren't realised," he said.

Domestically the economy had "turned the corner".

The report found renewable energy sources topped the list of priority areas for infrastructure investment (53 per cent), followed by regional infrastructure (41 per cent) and roads (33 per cent).

It said 53 per cent of directors reported their boards were actively seeking to increase gender diversity while 77 per cent reported they were actively looking to increase diversity of skills.

Personal income tax was highest on the list of priorities for taxation reform (50 per cent), followed by company tax (47 per cent), multinational tax arrangements (43 per cent) and state-based taxes such as payroll tax (43 per cent). 

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