• Agenda items


    Australian Business Register Advisory Board agendas, minutes and related papers are not binding on the Australian Business Register, Tax Office or any of the other bodies referred to in these papers. While every effort is made to accurately record views expressed, the wording necessarily represents a summary of statements of general position only, and care should be taken in interpreting those statements. These papers reflect the position at the date of release (unless otherwise noted) and readers should note that the position on any issue may subsequently change.

    1. Introduction: Welcome

    Registrar, Chris Jordan welcomed members to the meeting noting that the new representative from the Treasury, Executive Director, Markets Group, Jan Harris was attending her first meeting.

    The Registrar asked the Deputy Registrar, Mark Jackson to manage the meeting on his behalf.

    The Deputy Registrar noted that apologies were received from Mr Greg Tanzer, (Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)), Ms Malisa Golightly (Department of Human Services), Mr Ian Ewing (Australian Bureau of Statistics) and Ms Marion Grant (Australian Customs and Border Protection Service).

    The Deputy Registrar also welcomed Ms Kathrine Morgan-Wicks attending as Mr Tanzer’s representative, Mr Bruce Hockman who represented Mr Ewing, Ms Raelene Vivian attending as Ms Grant’s representative and Ms Alice Jones who represented Ms Golightly.

    2. Confirm minutes/previous action items

    Members reviewed the minutes of the ABR Advisory Board meeting held on 23 May 2013 and endorsed the minutes as previously provided.

    The meeting reviewed the progress of the previous action items.

    ABRAB/0513-01 – Complete

    The Assistant Registrar presented the paper advising that further investigation had found that information on the number of employees businesses have, was available from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This information could be collected and updated from the annual payment summary lodgments.

    Legal advice confirmed that the ATO could provide this information to the Registrar for inclusion on the ABR. It is proposed that the information would be recorded as a range rather than a specific number. The information would be updated annually from the next years payment summary information.

    Further discussion on the topic took place at Agenda item 5.

    The Action item was closed.

    ABRAB/0513-02 – Complete

    The Deputy Registrar reminded members that at the May meeting a paper on data sharing was presented, outlining the fields currently contained in the ABR. The paper included information which advised that information on employee numbers were currently collected.

    The Deputy Registrar advised that following the May meeting it was confirmed that the Registrar does not currently collect information on the number of employees.

    ABRAB/0513-03 – Complete

    The Assistant Registrar reiterated the conversation which took place during the pre meeting briefings with members.

    The paper presented to the May 2013 was revisited by the working group to ensure it met the original intent of the action item – “A map be produced detailing points of natural interaction with government to facilitate updating of the ABR”.

    The working group agreed that the paper did meet the intent of the action item and a one page interaction map was developed to illustrate the points of interaction.

    The documents were tabled for noting.

    The Action item was subsequently closed.

    3. Disaster Response Project - A case study

    Senior Directors Adrian Moore and Mano Georgopoulos were welcomed to the meeting to present a case study to members on how ABR information contributed to the response to a recent bio hazard which occurred in the fruit growing regions in the Northern Territory (NT).

    Following contact from the NT Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries the ABR team used industry (ANZSIC) codes to identify businesses in the impacted industries. The information from the Register was also further expanded to include other industries who could potentially be impacted such as fruit tree growers.

    On receipt of the ABR information the NT Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries were able to engage with businesses and deploy teams to the impacted areas. As a result the diseased crops were eradicated to stop the outbreak spreading. The spread of the disease could have had a major impact for not only the banana growing industry in the NT but for the Australian banana industry as a whole.

    The Deputy Registrar reminded members that the case study further highlights the way Government agencies at all levels can use ABR information in a growing number of ways.

    Mr Beresford-Wylie thanked Mr Moore for the presentation noting that it was pleasing to see that ABR information can be used for a range of incidents not just for fire and flood response.

    Action item:



    ABR Advisory Board members to provide details of relevant agency representatives to work with ABR staff on the disaster recovery program.

    Contact details can be emailed to ABRAdvisoryBoard@abr.gov.au

    Due Date:



    ABR Advisory Board members

    The Deputy Registrar thanked Mr Moore and Mr Georgopoulos for presenting the case study to the meeting.

    4. Single Business Register

    The Deputy Registrar lead the discussion on how to deal with business registrations in the future.

    Previously businesses needed to register in each state and territory that they transacted in. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) initiative introduced a national system for registering business names while enabled businesses to register once to be able to trade in all states and territories.

    The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) are currently responsible for registering these business names. While the new ABR system allows businesses registering for an Australian Business Number to continue through to ASIC to also register for a business name, if a business decides to register for business name after completing their ABN registration they need to apply separately through ASIC.

    The meeting recognised that the creation of a single register of business information is in line with the Federal Government’s focus on making it easier for business to deal with government by reducing red tape.

    The discussion that followed centred around the issue of the number of business names that are registered on the ASIC business register but not on the ABR and how the transfer of these names will be managed. It was recognised that the Assistant Registrar and Ms Morgan-Wicks have already held discussions about how the data matching may occur and how to manage the unmatched records.

    Action item:



    Representatives from the ABR, Treasury and ASIC produce a policy paper which identifies possibilities in creating a single business register clearly make a recommendation on the direction going forward.

    The paper would be distributed to members out of session for consideration.

    Due Date:

    30 November 2013


    Assistant Registrar

    5. Impacts for Small Business

    Phoenixing Watchlist

    The Deputy Registrar opened the discussion advising members that in the May 2013 Federal Budget, the Registrar received funding to develop a “Phoenix Watchlist”. Work has begun on the program of work however a number of issues in relation to sharing information captured on the Watchlist have emerged during the design phase.

    The purpose of the Watchlist is to try and identify business associates who have demonstrated repeated behaviour of establishing an enterprise, trading and then winding up the business before payments to staff, debtors and the government are made. The practice is known as phoenixing.

    Ms King noted that this practice is common in the building and construction and hospitality industries. Ms King also commented that while it’s important that the practice is stopped we also don’t want to stifle entrepreneurship.

    Discussion by the members focussed on the privacy issues associated with sharing the information between agencies and also then what the agencies would do with the information.

    Action item:



    A proposal be developed and presented to the ABR Advisory Board meeting being held in May 2014 providing members with full details on the approach to sharing information from the “Phoenix Watchlist” with Government agencies.

    Due Date:

    Next meeting


    Assistant Registrar

    Capturing employee numbers

    Following on from the discussion at Agenda item 2, the Assistant Registrar advised that information on the number of employees could be obtained from the ATO on an annual basis.

    The information would be collected from a business’s payment summary lodgements and could then be recorded in the ABR by range. The ABR team would also work with the ABS to ensure a consistent methodology was applied to the ranges.

    The Assistant Registrar noted that there was a question about whether the information would be publically available information and therefore could it be displayed through the ABN Lookup service. This would require a regulation change.

    The meeting supported a change to the Regulation to enable information on employee numbers to be publically displayed on the ABN Lookup Service.

    Action item:



    A proposal be developed for the Registrar’s consideration which sets out how information on the number of employees each business has can be added to the ABR and what costs would be incurred.

    Due Date:



    Assistant Registrar

    6. AUSkey Update and Direction

    The Deputy Registrar welcomed AUSkey Director, Stephen Shepherd to present an update on the AUSkey system and its future direction.

    The Registrar noted his support for recommendations that make it easier for business to register and use AUSkey.

    The meeting considered the recommendations set out in the paper to develop and enhance AUSkey to a point where the system can be outsourced. The Deputy Registrar advised that takeup by agencies is expanding and the AUSkey team are looking at whether there are new opportunities resulting from the recent Machinery of Government changes.

    The other areas which had previously been considered to help enhance the AUSkey system included:

    • Seeking Gatekeeper accreditation in the General Category
    • Finalising the recommendations of the DSD report
    • Further developing the system so that it can be used on mobile devices such as ipads.

    The meeting agreed that a paper should be developed and presented at the next ABR Advisory Board meeting setting out the strategies for enhancing the system to a point where it is commercially viable.

    Mr Helgeby also added that he felt there should also be a higher level conversation about the future and direction of AUSkey and authentication more generally.

    Action item:



    A paper be prepared setting out detailed strategies for enhancing the AUSkey system to be commercially viable.

    The paper will be presented at the May 2014 ABR Advisory Board meeting.

    Due Date:

    Next Meeting


    Senior Director, AUSkey

    7. Review of ABR Advisory Board Charter

    The Deputy Registrar presented the meeting with the ABR Advisory Board charter and asked the meeting to consider if the membership of the Board was still the most appropriate given recent Machinery of Government Changes.

    The meeting agreed that the current membership was appropriate and there were no suggested changes.

    The meeting also approved the update to the Charter which updated the titles of the Governments agencies represented on the Advisory Board.

    8. Development of a Whole of Government Credential

    ATO Assistant Commissioner (AC), John Dardo joined the meeting to present the work being undertaken in collaboration with other government agencies, including the Department of Human Services to explore the convergence of authentication and authorisation for individuals and businesses.

    AC Dardo took the meeting through a number of scenarios where an individual may want to contact various government agencies representing various interests and explained how the authentication and authorisation process may work in each situation.

    It is proposed that through a suite of authentication credentials including voice biometrics, AUSkey or pin/password individuals will be able to access government services via phone, online or using mobile devices. An authorisation matrix would determine what information the client can access.

    The meeting discussed what the implications were when there is a change of an individuals circumstances and how the system would deal with the changes.

    AC Dardo noted that while the architecture of the system is sound the technical details are still to be worked through.

    It is anticipated that maintenance of the system would not be an onerous task with the voice biometric system automatically updating an individuals voice print each time they used the service. This would allow for aging and changes in voice patterns.

    The Deputy Registrar thanked AC Dardo for presenting the interesting concept to the meeting.

    9. ABR Update

    The Assistant Registrar provided the meeting with an update on the ABR since the last meeting.


    • At present there is a new registration every 54 seconds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    • Growth in the register has slowed to now be in line with GDP.
    • All targets were met with the audit and field visits as part of the Towards a Better Business Future initiative
    • The new ABR website is due to launch in December 2013
    • The top 200 businesses have been contacted to obtain the branching information to include on the Register
    • All new registrations from December 2013 will have to undergo identity checks for all associates

    Information on multiple ABNs

    Work has been done with the State and Territory Revenue Offices to extract a list of addresses in each state with the highest number of ABNs registered at them.

    This work produced some interesting results. The Assistant Registrar gave an example of an address in Western Sydney where almost 1,000 ABNs were registered. Using an online mapping tool it was discovered that the address was a truck sales yard. It was later identified by a member of staff to be a vacant block.

    Mr Salisbury mentioned that the work was on the agenda for the next State and Territory Revenue Office Commissioners Conference being held in November. The Assistant Registrar also noted that she is presenting the information to the Revenue Office Compliance Committee meeting in December.

    Associate Information

    The Assistant Registrar distributed a representation of information taken from the ABR on the individuals who were listed as associates against multiple ABNs.

    The person who was listed as being an associate for the most had almost 4,500 ABNs. Further research determined that the majority of associates registrations were attributed to strata titles.

    Both these pieces of work are again examples of how ABR information can be used by partner agencies for compliance work as well as for planning other infrastructure related programs.

    10. Other Business

    The Registrar thanked members for attending the meeting.

    The next Advisory Board Meeting is scheduled for May 2014. The preferred dates are:

    Thursday 22 May 2014
    Thursday 29 May 2014

    Details: 1pm to 4pm
    Venue: McKay Boardroom, Level 10 26 Narellan Street, Canberra, ACT

    There being no further business the meeting closed at 4.50pm

      Last modified: 11 Aug 2014QC 41741