Date posted: 11/05/2023

Federal Budget 2023-24: What we found and didn’t find in the Federal Budget

CA ANZ unpacks some of the other measures included in the Budget and highlights those that were absent

In brief

  • Funding allocated for anti-money laundering framework, which will include accountants
  • No specific allocation for the corporate climate disclosure requirements
  • An Anti-Slavery Commissioner established to work across sectors

This week’s Federal Budget included a lot of spending across a wide range of areas, but there were also some notable exceptions. Here are some of the key highlights of the programs that did receive funding and those that were notably missing across the recent advocacy focus areas of sustainability and business reform.

Anti-money laundering and Counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF)

Following the announcement from the Attorney General last month, $14.3 million has been allocated over four years to support the policy and legislative reforms to strengthen and evaluate Australia’s AML framework. This includes $8.6 million over three years to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) to consult on the reforms and prepare for the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) evaluation as well as $5.6 million over four years for additional departmental resourcing for the Attorney-General’s Department. Importantly for members, these policy and legislative reforms will bring accountants into the AML/CTF regime. We note the cost of this measure will be met from the Confiscated Assets Account under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, rather than through an industry levy.

The Treasury portfolio has received $1.9 million over two years from 2023–24 to establish a public registry of beneficial ownership of companies and other legal vehicles, including trusts, following the consultation in late 2022. It is pleasing to see the intention to establish a public register, although the amount allocated is relatively modest and it is not clear if this will be a central register or be required to be established and maintained by each separate entity.

Sustainable finance and climate disclosures

The Government provided funding for sustainable finance, including establishing an Australian Government green bond, co-funding the development of a sustainable finance taxonomy with the Australian Sustainable Finance Institute (ASFI) as previously announced and resourcing the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to target greenwashing in financial markets. 

Despite the Government indicating they are continuing to implement corporate climate disclosure requirements, the lack of specific funding for this initiative in the Budget is concerning. In particular, funding for the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) is lower than the current year at a time when Treasury has a Bill before Parliament seeking to expand their mandate to encompass sustainability standards. This will hopefully be addressed when Treasury release their follow-up consultation on mandatory climate-related disclosures.

Consumer Data Right (CDR)

$88.8 million over two years was allocated to Treasury for the continued operation of the Consumer Data Right within existing sectors, to progress action initiation and uplift cyber security. Pleasing that this is not for further expansion of the scheme as we have been concerned at the speed of roll-out and lack of time to bed down the existing sectors and increase adoption. 

Modernising business registers (MBR)

We expected additional funding to be allocated to the modernising business registers program following recognition by the Government that our business registries are critical infrastructure. The Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones announced an independent review of the program on 9 February 2023 indicating a $1 billion cost blowout in the program. Yet there is no additional funding in the Treasury portfolio nor is the program recognised under the Government’s infrastructure program. 

Cyber and scams

Following our recent submissions in this area seeking support for small practices to build in-house protection against cyber threats, we welcome the $23.4 million over three years for a small business cyber wardens program to be delivered by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia.

While we also welcome the Government providing $86.5 million over four years from 2023–24 to combat scams and online fraud, this appears focused on identifying scams and does not provide compensation for victims of scams.  

We do consider the $17.6 million over four years from 2023–24 (and $4.4 million per year ongoing) for ASIC to identify and take down phishing websites and other websites which promote investment scams will benefit our members and their clients. However, we do not support the cost of this initiative being recovered through higher levies under ASIC’s industry funding model. We are still awaiting the outcome of the review into ASIC’s Industry Funding Model (IFM) but remain concerned that ASIC’s regulated population will be funding these activities, which will benefit all of society.

Modern slavery and sustainability information

In the broader sustainability space, we welcome the announcement to establish and fund an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to work across Government, industry and civil society. CA ANZ, along with many other organisations, made this recommendation in our response to the 2022 statutory review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018.

During our engagement with members around Treasury’s climate disclosure consultation, we heard feedback indicating the lack of quality information available in Australia and the challenge this would present for sustainability-related disclosures. Therefore, we are pleased to see the Government dedicate funding to maintain and enhance Australia’s National Greenhouse Accounts to deliver high-quality emissions data and track progress against Australia’s emissions reduction targets as well as to establish Environment Information Australia to provide an authoritative source of high-quality environmental information.

Measuring what matters statement

In the October 2022 Budget, Budget Paper 1 included Statement 4 – Measuring what matters. It was suggested that this would be the foundation of an ongoing consultation, which would inform the development of a stand-alone Measuring what matters statement in 2023. Treasury is currently consulting on their second phase in relation to the wellbeing budget and last month’s consultation indicates the Measuring what matters statement will be released in 2023 but after the 2023-2024 Budget. Statement 4 in Budget Paper 1 instead covered ‘Structural shifts shaping the economy’. CA ANZ will continue to seek feedback from members to inform our input to this consultation.

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