Long-tail liabilities: weaving accounting constructs into an 'intertextual' web
The purpose of this paper is to explore the hegemony of accounting discourse through examination of a single case of the political processes of the consideration of public interest issues under regulatory scrutiny in the 'discussion paper-comment letter' process. Adopting an intertextual approach, this paper explores the use of the accounting concepts such as 'creditors' and the accounting standard for Provisions, Contingent Liabilities and Contingent Assets (IAS/AASB 137) as an authoritative discourse to examine the issue of corporate disclosure of long-tail liabilities. Analysis of a recent Australian Treasury 'discussion paper - comment letter' process arising from the significant public controversy over the adequacy of funding of asbestos liabilities by corporations highlights the ability of accounting discourse to reinforce the status quo rather than provide potential for change by limiting the scope of issues under consideration in the regulatory or legislative environment. By adopting a textual or discourse approach to analysing accounting concepts, insights into the rhetorical use of accounting language and terminology provide an opportunity for the reification of a stable meaning to an otherwise contested and controversial discourse.
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