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Policy Position – Business registers modernisation

Governance Institute acknowledges the findings presented in the Independent Review of the Modernising Business Registers Program (MBR Report), particularly the higher than anticipated investment required for its implementation. However, the business community has major concerns with the government’s decision to abandon the MBR project, as announced in the MYEFO 2023-24 Budget, Ceasing the Modernising Business Registers Program. The cessation of the program is a major setback, particularly as ASIC’s portfolio has a broad remit of responsibilities and in the time elapsed the need for a modern secure business registry has become even more critical.

Our members have serious concerns with the cessation of the MBR program given its significance to the business community and Australians. Our members urge certainty moving forward with the goals of the project revisited rather than left behind. Australia’s business registry is critical national regulatory infrastructure which enables individuals and businesses to engage in the economy and operate within the legal system more confidently and securely.

Governance Institute and other peak industry associations support Option 3 outlined in the MBR Report as the best next step – that is, to proceed with the scope narrowed to companies only. Option 3 is most likely to create a world-class data and digitally capable functioning companies register that meets the needs of most users. It would also assist the Government in meeting its data and digital strategy and its vision ‘to deliver outstanding outcomes for all people and business’. The way forward should be an Australian Companies Register that is fit-for-purpose now and sufficiently agile to harness emerging technology for further development.

Governance Institute recommends:
• The creation of data and digitally capable functioning companies register that meets the needs of most users.
• A direct linking of director IDs to the Companies Register to assist with anti-phoenixing activities and to deter other fraudulent activities.
• The de-identification of directors’ and company officers’ personal information as a priority to reduce the threat to individuals’ personal and cyber security.
• The abolition of search fees for company officers and academics to enable them to interact with the companies register to ensure they are dealing with a genuine Australian business and a properly appointed director or officer.

April 2024