News from the Council
Key highlights from recent meetings of the Business Registry Strategic Advisory Council (formerly the ABR Board).
19 September 2019
The Registrar welcomed members to the first meeting of the Business Registry Strategic Advisory Council, following its renaming from the ABR Board.
The purpose of the group was refreshed to influence the strategic direction of the Registrar’s 2024 Vision and also support and advocate in unlocking the economic and social value of the ABR data. This is reflected in the new Terms of Reference which were tabled and agreed.
The Registrar mentioned:
- the significance of the register within the recently launched ATO Corporate Plan 2019-20
- significant milestones for the ABR this financial year (2018/19), including:
- 1.4 billion searches of the ABR via ABN lookup, which is an increase of 40%
- 18% increase in the number of agencies using ABR data
- 863,000 new registrations and only 328 complaints in relation to the register
- unlocking data’s social and economic value
- addressing illegal phoenixing via our work to strengthen the ABN system
- how the ATO is improving the experience for businesses, particularly for those starting a new business
- Better As Usual program which will help us improve our client experience through joining up tax, super and registry systems to ensure a seamless and integrated experience.
The Council heard from Small Business New South Wales, who are leading work on the feasibility of a Small Business Indicator. The working group members provided an update on work to date, and it was decided that they would present recommendations about how the work should proceed at the next Council meeting.
Members heard from attendees of the July workshop on developing a roadmap to progress the Registrar’s 2024 vision. There was a significant focus on ABR data including:
- challenges around multipurpose use of ABR data and unlocking economic and social value
- bringing together data from multiple sources to improve the experience of businesses dealing with government throughout their lifecycle
- data sharing and the constraints involved
- the need for a media campaign about the importance of the data and keeping it up to date.
Next steps will be to provide a plan of the program of work, to be discussed at the next meeting.
Other discussions included:
- strengthening the ABN system measure
- ppdate on the Modernising Business Registers program.
It was agreed to schedule three meetings in 2020. This recognises the amount of work underway in the business registries space as we transition towards a commonwealth business registry service.
9 May 2019
The Registrar highlighted that this year was the twentieth anniversary of when the first ABN was issued, and today we have nearly eight million active ABNs and over one billion searches on ABN lookup annually.
He emphasised the challenge in highlighting the importance of registry data and using the advances in technology to make it more accessible to the community and the government, and increase its social and economic value.
The Registrar also acknowledged the important role the members of Board have played in that time.
The Board was briefed on the review into governance arrangements for Commonwealth business registries. The Board considered the recommendations of the review and agreed to
- rename the ABR Board to the Business Registry Strategic Advisory Council,
- revisit member roles and responsibilities, and
- involve members in co-designing a roadmap for implementing the Registrar’s 2024 vision. An out of session working group will be created to develop the roadmap.
Other presentations to the Board covered:
- the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ standards for industry and occupational codes
- the potential role for the ABR in identifying small businesses (with specific reference to the NSW Government’s Faster Payment Terms policy)
- the use of ABR data by the Victorian Government to target business information to appropriate parties.
Board members agreed that the practical uses of the relevant ABS codes justified the efforts to ensure that they were kept up to date.
It was also agreed that the NSW Small Business Commission would lead work in establishing a working group involving Strategic Advisory Council members for further exploration to develop a small business indicator.
6 September 2018
The Board was informed of the ATO’s 2018–19 Corporate Plan, including:
- its particular relevance to the ABR – that is to build trust and confidence in the community and for the ATO to be streamlined, integrated and data driven
- projects that will deliver on the objectives, including modernising business registers and reform of the ABN system.
The recently-appointed interim National Data Commissioner, Deborah Anton, addressed the Board concerning her work to improve the public sector’s collection, management and use of data, including its use to inform policy decisions.
Peter Alexander, Chief Digital Officer of the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), presented on the DTA’s role in delivering the whole of government digital transformation strategy, including its work on:
- emerging technologies
- digital capability building
- oversight and assurance
- procurement policy
- digital identity.
The Board agreed to a proposal to initiate a review of the governance arrangements required to support the Registrar in 2019 and beyond. The review will provide clarity on the Board’s vital role in helping the Registrar and the community navigate the medium and long-term transformational change agenda.
10 May 2018
Board members were informed of initiatives relevant to the ABR that were funded in the 2018–19 Budget. These included:
- measures to tackle the Black Economy, including technology-based, identity, reporting and enforcement initiatives
- a review of the ABN system
- further work on modernising business registers, including both the ABR and ASIC registers, and the implementation of a Director Identification Number.
The Board was advised of the outcomes of an internal review (including consultation with ABR Board members) of the administration of the ABR, which made specific recommendations concerning the use of data, better cross-government coordination, improved communication and education, and changes to the application process.
Other issues discussed at the Board included:
- progress on e-Invoicing being advanced in conjunction with State and Territory Governments and the New Zealand Government
- the Digital Economy Strategy being prepared under the auspices of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
- the work of the Small Business Digital Taskforce
- the impact on business and employment arising from the growth of the sharing economy and visa requirements.
2 November 2017
The Board was provided with an update on components of:
- the National Business Simplification Initiative (including registry modernisation)
- the Digital Economy Strategy
- the Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA).
The DIPA, which encompasses a broad range of economic, business and welfare data, is expected to result in better quality policy advice and outcomes, as well as improving public trust in data.
Following discussion on the definitions of contractors, employees and ABN entitlement at the previous Board meeting, the Board noted data showing a marked growth in ABN applications in certain industry sectors, and considered the need for greater clarity for small business on government websites concerning this issue.
17 May 2017
The Board discussed:
- the findings of the 2017 ABR agency data-use survey
- employee-contractor issues affecting ABN entitlement
- the use of data and data analytics
- the National Business Simplification Initiative
- the Payment Times and Practices Inquiry Report
- progress of the implementation of Standard Business Reporting (SBR).
The data-use survey demonstrated that agencies were moving beyond using the ABR database for broad research and planning, and were increasingly using it for service provision, support for regulatory functions and online validation and prefill.
Service NSW presented a ‘showcase’ demonstrating its engagement with the ABR, including its role in the future development of the ‘Easy to do Business’ program for small business.
The Board recently took over responsibility for broad strategic oversight of the SBR program, and consequently was advised of progress with invoicing and the acquisition of a Digital Capability Locator (directory of business digital addresses).
2 March 2017
This was a 'special' meeting to focus on the future development of the Register, which has had largely unchanged functions since 1999.
The Board endorsed the concept of ABR evolution; involving the rationalisation of registers, reduced risks of incorrectly issuing ABNs, and other reforms to allow improved services to be provided by the Register.