• ABR Advisory Board minutes - May 2015

    Meeting details


    Australian Taxation Office
    26 Narellan St
    Canberra City


    20 May 2015






    Mark Jackson


    Jean Reed




    Mark Jackson

    Deputy Registrar, Australian Business Register

    Christine Williams

    Deputy Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics representative

    Colin Bridge

    Deputy Secretary, Department of Human Services representative

    Kim Salisbury

    Commissioner, ACT Revenue Office

    Robyn Hobbs AO

    NSW Small Business Commissioner

    Adrian Beresford-Wylie

    Chief Executive, Australian Local Government Association

    Kerry O’Loghlin

    Deputy Commissioner, Australian Taxation Office representative

    Liesl McKay

    Commissioner, Australian Securities and Investments Commission representative

    Paul Farrell

    Deputy Secretary, Department of Immigration and Border Protection representative

    Marianne Cullen

    First Assistant Secretary, Department of Communications

    Martin Hoffman (by phone)

    Deputy Secretary, Department of Industry

    Graham Tanton

    Deputy Secretary, Department of Industry representative

    Mark Richardson

    Deputy Secretary, Department of Finance representative




    Chris Jordan AO

    Registrar, Australian Business Register

    Greg Tanzer

    Commissioner, Australian Securities and Investments Commission

    David Diment

    Deputy Commissioner, Australian Taxation Office

    Barry Sandison

    Deputy Secretary, Department of Human Services representative

    Ian Ewing

    Deputy Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics

    Maria Fernandez

    Deputy Secretary, Department of Immigration and Border Protection

    Roger Arwas

    Executive Director, Small Business Victoria

    Dr Stein Helgeby

    Deputy Secretary, Department of Finance

    Next meeting

    October 2015

    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. Welcome/opening mesage

    Deputy Registrar, Mark Jackson opened the meeting and noted the following changes in membership since the last meeting.

    Mark advised that The Treasury have withdrawn from the ABR Advisory Board and the Department of Communications have subsequently confirmed their membership.

    Mark also noted that due to some organisational changes Maria Fernandez is now the representative from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Martin Hoffman is now the Department of Industry and Science representative on the board. Mark thanked the outgoing members, Marion Grant and Sue Weston for their contributions to the board in recent years and welcomed Maria and Martin to the board.

    Apologies were received from:

    • Registrar, Chris Jordan AO
    • Ian Ewing from ABS (represented by Christine Williams)
    • Greg Tanzer from ASIC (represented by Liesl McKay)
    • David Diment from the ATO (represented by Kerry O’Loghlin)
    • Barry Sandison from the Department of Human Services (represented by Colin Bridge)
    • Roger Arwas from Small Business Victoria
    • Dr Stein Helgeby from the Department of Finance (represented by Mark Richardson)

    2. Previous minutes and action items

    Minutes of meeting held 30 October 2014

    The Deputy Registrar noted that the minutes of the ABR Advisory Board meeting held on 30 October 2014 had previously been circulated and minor changes incorporated into the final document. The meeting endorsed the minutes as presented.

    Action Item update

    ABR AB/1014-01

    The Deputy Registrar advised that a paper was currently being prepared that would provide members with some context as to why only certain fields in the ABR were made public. The paper will be distributed to members once finalised.

    Action item
    ABR AB/1014-01

    Due date

    Assistant Registrar, Policy & Strategy

    A paper be developed that sets out the history behind the decision to only have certain fields in the ABR publically available. The paper should also identify what regulation changes might be required as well as other issues that will need to be addressed in order to make the change.

    ABR AB/1014-02

    The Deputy Registrar advised that to date no formal advice had been received from members on low cost avenues for promoting the need for businesses to update their ABR information.

    Members noted the use of smart forms and social media as possible channels. Mr Beresford-Wylie also advised that the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) would be happy to distribute information to be posted on council notice boards.

    ABR AB/1014-03

    The Deputy Registrar advised that following the last meeting the staff responsible for the Reducing Business Costs initiative worked with the consultant who was reviewing ATO correspondence on the revised wording of the ABN entitlement tool questions. A few small edits were made and included in the update to the ABR in December 2014.

    ABR AB/1014-04

    Members were advised that the work to revisit authentication options has been put on hold pending further discussion. Representatives from the Digital Transformation Office and the ATO will be providing an update on authentication and authorisation at agenda item 6.

    3. ABR Update

    Assistant Registrar, Robert Drummond provided the meeting with an update on the operations of the Australian Business Register since the October meeting.

    Removal of redundant ABNs from the ABR

    The ABR annual survey had previously revealed there two million redundant ABNs on the register. This financial year work has been undertaken to remove one million of these. To date 1.1 million redundant ABNs had been removed with the remainder to be removed in the second half of the year.

    Improving the accuracy of business details

    Work has continued to improve the integrity of the register. Some of the strategies being undertaken to improve the accuracy and completeness of key fields includes:

    • Validating email addresses and mobile phone numbers for new registrations
    • Using third party information to collect main business location phone numbers for existing ABN holders
    • Using third party information to collect email addresses for existing ABN holders
    • Removing more than 530,000 invalid ANZSIC codes.

    In addition, since late 2014 reminders have been published on a number of online channels reminding ABN holders to keep their business details up to date and cancel any ABNs that are no longer required.

    Improving the client experience

    In late 2014 the Reducing Business Costs (RBC) initiative delivered some improvements to the ABN registration experience.

    The changes included:

    • The ability to save a partially completed ABN application and return to it later
    • Online email and mobile phone validation
    • Improved help content

    Since making the improvements, the number of ABNs issued on the spot has increased from 66% to 78%. Further improvements will see the number increase to 90%.

    Another improvement currently being proposed is the introduction of a fully online process. This will mean that registrations will receive notification of their registration on screen at the time of registration as well as the option to create and print a certificate of registration.

    Ms Williams noted that the quality of location data has been an issue for the ABS quite recently (with businesses appearing to change their state or territory without apparent cause) and asked the ABR to explore whether location data could be improved. Mr Drummond thought that data corruption may have been an issue following a recent IT update. The ABR agreed to look into this. Ms Williams also commented that she would welcome the opportunity to work with ABR staff on identifying addition data sources to further expand the location data held on the register.

    Action item:
    ABR AB/0505-01

    Due date:

    Assistant Registrar Operations

    Assistant Registrar Drummond to provide advice back to Ms Williams at the ABS in relation to issues encountered with the quality of location data.

    Mr Tanton (DIS) asked if there was a breakdown of the issues being raised through calls to the contact centre.

    Assistant Registrar undertook to provide available information to Mr Tanton.

    Action item:
    ABR AB/0515-02

    Due date:

    Assistant Registrar Operations

    Provide to Mr Tanton (Department of Industry and Science) information presenting the ABR update to the meeting.

    4. ABR strategic direction

    The Deputy Registrar took the meeting through the six strategies being proposed in the ABR strategy paper.

    Items for endorsement

    ABR as a national resource – to support partner agencies to adopt and use the ABR as their primary source of business identity information, rather than maintain their own registers and datasets

    The Deputy Registrar noted that the work undertaken to date to remove redundant information from the Register has made the ABR more usable. The creation of the ABR as a national register would see a live feed into other agencies who can then prepopulate their on screen information and also update certain fields directly on the ABR.

    NSW Small Business Commissioner, Robyn Hobbs provided the meeting with a brief update on the pilot being undertaken with the ABR and NSW Government. The ‘Easy to do business’ project will look initially at the hospitality industry The pilot will be conducted in four local council areas and will look at creating a single entry point to deal with the NSW Government.

    It is estimated that there will be an 86% saving to business in terms of time and 90% to Government agencies. This is the first phase in leveraging the ABR as the NSW Government business register.

    Develop serial insolvency risk alert

    The Serial Insolvency Risk Alert (SIRA) will be created from information held on the ABR. Unlike the existing Phoenix Watchlist, the SIRA will include the names of associates who have had a number of ABNs cancelled over a defined period of time. The list will be factual rather than pejorative and will pick up information on those who are doing it illicitly as well as those who just need help running their business.

    It was suggested that the word ‘risk alert’ implied guilt and the meeting agreed that the name of the list should be reconsidered and possibly renamed “Serial Insolvency Alert”. It was also suggested that a clear set of guidelines be established setting out how associates are identified and how they will be dealt with. It was also suggested that people being included in the list should be contacted and advised that they are about to be placed on the list prior to its publication.

    Items for noting

    Provide an end to end digital experience

    This topic was also touched on in Agenda Item 3 – ABR Update. The strategy being proposed will see more than 90% of applications being approved on the spot. The strategy will also move away from issuing paper letters and registration certificates to an online notification and certificate which can be printed by the applicant at the time.

    The meeting strongly supported this strategy noting the savings to be realised through reduced staffing and the move away from paper products.

    Add key data elements

    The meeting was advised that ABR staff had been looking at how the data elements on the ABR could be expanded easily within the objects of the Tax Administration and the ABN Act. It was also recognised that the current DTO agenda could be used to help to accommodate the changes we are wanting to make.

    There was interest from members in seeing a business turnover indicator (NSW), Ultimate holding company (ABS), Group reporting information (ABS) and Tax role indicator (ABS).

    Action item:
    ABR AB/1505-03

    Due date:

    Deputy Registrar

    Deputy Registrar Jackson to write to ABR Advisory Board members to advise them of the outcome of the work to include key data elements to the Australian Business Register.

    Community Culture on ABN entitlement

    There is a perception in the community that the ABN is like a TFN in that if you apply for one – you automatically receive one.

    A targeted marketing and communications campaign will aim to change this perception with positive messages around the use of the ABN as an identifier of a legitimate business as well as the importance of keeping your details up to date.

    Establishment of a single business registration unit

    The meeting discussed the concept of the single business registration unit. The meeting noted the recent announcement in the Federal Budget in relation to streamlined business registration, acknowledging that the announcement related to the creation of a website with the various aspects are still scattered across a number of agencies. In most cases business registration isn’t the main focus for these agencies.

    The proposal being put to the meeting looks at putting all registration and subsequent processes together in one agency. The paper didn’t make any suggestions or recommendations as to which agency would be the natural place for this work.


    There was strong support for the six strategies put to the meeting and they were unanimously endorsed.

    Members congratulation ABR staff on putting the strategies forward noting the importance of having leadership in this area.

    5. International engagement - New Zealand

    Assistant Registrar, Andrew Joyce provided the meeting with a brief update on the work being undertaken with the New Zealand Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) on mutual recognition of business registrations.

    ABR staff have been working with NZ Government staff on the work to date. An exchange of letters between the Registrar of the ABR and NZ Registrar of Companies took place earlier in the year to formalise this work.

    The NZ MBIE has commissioned research of Australian and New Zealand businesses operating across both jurisdictions to identify impediments to registration as well as any opportunities for mutual alignment.

    The research piece is due to be completed in June.

    The Deputy Registrar noted the significant international engagement on business registration. Most recently from the Saudi, Oman and Malaysian governments

    6. Rationalising authentication and authorisation

    Design Lead at the Digital Transformation Office (DTO), Robert Ravanello and Acting Deputy Commissioner, John Dardo joined the meeting to provide a brief update on authentication and authorisation.

    Mr Ravanello advised that the Government had formally announced in the May Budget that the DTO will be operational from 1 July 2015. The DTO is currently working through a number of proposals to put to government. Of particular interest to the group is the work around the work underway to establish a whole of government GNAF licence.

    Mr Ravanello reiterated that the ABR program is central to many of the issues being explored at the DTO. The improvements to the ABR and AUSkey will make it easier for people to deal with Government.

    Acting Deputy Commissioner Dardo then updated the meeting on the work to allow authentication through cloud based software. A number of solutions were explored, however some did not meet the current terms and conditions for AUSkey.

    The current solution will see the business authorising the software provider to secure their online transaction to the ATO. The software provider would then use their own dedicated device AUSkey to secure the transmission from the business to the ATO. This approach has been tested with software developers and users with positive feedback. A/g Deputy Commissioner Dardo also noted that the Department of Finance were comfortable with the solution.

    The Deputy Registrar thanked Mr Ravanello and Mr Dardo for attending and providing the meeting with the update.

    7. Other business

    Use of ABR data

    Ms Hobbs advised that ABR data had been extremely valuable in the recent floods in the NSW Hunter Valley. ABR information was used to assist with the recovery response.

    In the last year ABR data has also been used to assist with the Rozelle and Martin Place disaster events.

    The Deputy Registrar thanked Ms Hobbs for her comments noting how pleasing it was to see ABR information being used to assist in these situations.

    ABR Advisory Board Charter Update

    The Deputy Registrar advised that the charter for the ABR Advisory Board had been updated to reflect the membership changes previously outlined in agenda item 1.

    Members endorsed the changes and approved the updated Charter as presented.

    Next Meeting

    The Deputy Registrar thanked members for attending the meeting.

    The next Advisory Board Meeting is scheduled for October/November 2015. The preferred dates are:

    • 9:30am-12:30pm Wednesday 28 October 2015
    • 9:30am-12:30pm Wednesday 11 November 2015

    There being no further business the meeting closed at 4pm.

      Last modified: 28 Jul 2016QC 48909