Date posted: 12/09/2023

Australia needs a fit-for-purpose Companies Register, linked to director IDs

We urge the government to proceed to build only a Companies Register on the platform hosting the director ID.

In brief

  • Complete implementation of the law changes as proposed for the MBR program
  • Harness the full benefits of director ID by linking to related companies
  • Abolish search fees so Australians can verify a company’s credentials and its connections to others

In 2019 the Government commenced a program to modernize Australia’s business registers (MBR) as the existing registers deliver a poor digital experience and generate uncertainty, re-work and unnecessary costs. The objectives were to improve user experience, strengthen the integrity of registry data and remediate technology risks.

In February 2023, the government announced an independent review of the MBR program. On 23 August 2023, the Assistant Treasurer released the findings from the independent review and announced that the government will stop the MBR program immediately. The government will now consider options to stabilise and uplift the existing business registers.

With four other stakeholders, we have written to the Assistant Treasurer urging the government to finish building a Companies Register on the platform hosting the director ID. We refer to Option 3 in the Final Report from the independent review as a roadmap and highlight three elements we consider critical to strengthen data integrity and improve user experience.

Critical elements

Law and policy reform

  • To complete implementation of the law and policy changes that were part of the MBR program
  • In particular, to remove the personal details of directors from the public register, replace with the director ID

Director ID

  • The greatest benefit of a director ID is being able to see which companies an individual is a director of
  • Linking director IDs to related companies will enable timely detection of phoenix activity and provide transparency over connections between companies and directors

Abolish search fees

  • Searching is required to establish if a business is genuine and how it is connected to others.
  • Fees act as a deterrent for businesses and individuals to thoroughly search, currently, multiple registers for this information

Option 3: Proceed – Narrow to companies only

Option 3 in the Final Report provides a road map to implement only a Companies Register. Critically, it looks at building the Companies Register on the platform hosting the director ID. This platform utilises current technology that would be able to interact with emerging technologies when seeking to add more registries in the future.

Conversely, to remain with existing registers would leave the Companies Register on the Australian Securities and Investments Commissions (ASIC) platform. ASIC’s platform has not been upgraded and only core maintenance undertaken since 2019, the start of the MBR program.

The report acknowledges that even with an uplift, ASIC’s legacy systems do not easily integrate with current technology and there would be minimal improvement for users.

Conclusion

Ultimately, more investment is required to secure and protect Australia’s business registers, identified by government as core national economic infrastructure.

Collectively, we consider proceeding to build a Companies Register on the same platform as the director ID is the best way forward to meet the government’s objectives to improve user experience, strengthen the integrity of registry data and remediate technology risks.

As key stakeholders of the MBR, the five organisations have also reiterated our support to work constructively with the government to design and build fit-for-purpose business registers for now and the future.

Submission to the review of the MBR Program

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