Australia could get a single business register

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Australia could get a single business register

Govt proposes joining 31 separate databases.

The federal government is contemplating using a need to update the IT infrastructure behind the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s business registry as an opportunity to create a single whole-of-government business database.

It is looking at merging the dozens of separate business registers that have developed for specific purposes over time and are now operating on outdated technology, as part of the 'national business simplification initiative' announced last November.

Revenue and financial services minister Kelly O’Dwyer today kicked off consultation [pdf] on how to improve the user experience of business registers, which the government says is not meeting public expectations.

"The Australian government has received feedback that businesses find it confusing to deal with multiple agencies," the consultation paper states.

"Currently, entities that engage with government to meet compliance, legal and regulatory requirements, maintain registrations and licenses, or obtain relevant information about businesses must do so through each responsible agency."

Having seperate registers also makes it harder for third-party software developers and information brokers to use business data to deliver services to business.

The government’s new 'business registration service' - launched this year with the intention of streamlining the registration process - has already started to ease pain points, with Service NSW one of the first to plug into the service.

However, the ongoing requirement for businesses to "engage with individual responsible agencies to maintain their registration and meet ongoing compliance requirements" creates unnecessary burdens, the government says.

It wants to understand the potential impacts of bringing together the 31 registers that are managed by ASIC, including the companies register and the business names register, as well as other agencies like the ATO.

Technology, governance, user experience, data accessibility and legislation are all on the table for discussion.

ASIC has been wrestling with what to do with its registry since the government abandoned plans to auction it off late last year. The upgrade of the 25-year-old IT system that sits behind the commission’s corporate database has been costed at more than $100 million.

Five agencies are currently conducting user research into various business registers to inform the development and testing of future solutions in partnership with the Digital Transformation Agency.

"We want to help businesses to focus on doing business, to save time and money and to minimise complicated government processes and regulations at all levels of government," O’Dwyer said.

"Modernising business registers will remove barriers to new business creation, which will create more jobs for Australians."

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