Wednesday, 12 February 2020
Commonwealth Registers Bill 2019, Treasury Laws Amendment (Registries Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill 2019, Business Names Registration (Fees) Amendment (Registries Modernisation) Bill 2019, Corporations (Fees) Amendment (Registries Modernisation) Bill 2019, National Consumer Credit Protection (Fees) Amendment (Registries Modernisation) Bill 2019; Second Reading
I thank all those who contributed to the debate on this legislation. This legislative package does very important work. It creates a new act, called the Commonwealth Registers Act, and makes related amendments to a suite of existing laws to create a new Commonwealth business registry regime. This set of bills will introduce a single business register that will fundamentally improve and streamline how businesses engage with government.
To facilitate the implementation of a modernised registry system, new legislation has been drafted that is technology neutral and governance neutral. Schedule one of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Registries Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill 2019 will provide the legislative flexibility for the government to modernise Australian business registers into a single platform to be administered by the Australian business registrar. Modernising the business registers will address registry fragmentation, improve business user experience, reduce risks of ongoing operation, foster data driven innovation and enable better use of registry data.
The IT infrastructure underpinning Australia's business registry services urgently needs to be upgraded to meet current and future demands. The modernising business register legislative regime will allow a registrar, a Commonwealth body appointed by the minister, to create data standards and disclosure frameworks to assist them in carrying out their registry functions and powers. Director identification numbers are being progressed, as has been noted by many, as part of the MBR program, to ensure that it's integrated with other important registry data.
Schedule 2 of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Registries Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill provides for the introduction of a legal framework for director identification numbers, which will require all directors and alternate directors of registered bodies to have a unique identifier. Importantly, once a director has been issued with a director identification number, that unique number will remain with them forever—meaning their directorships across companies and over time can easily be tracked. This will assist regulators and external administrators investigate a director's involvement in what may be unlawful activity, including illegal phoenixing activity, which has been a problem for successive governments. Beyond helping to combat illegal phoenixing, simple and more effective tracking of directors and their corporate history will have a range of attendant benefits, including reducing time and cost for administrators and liquidators; thereby improving the efficiency of the insolvency process. In addition, it will help businesses identify who they are dealing with or potentially thinking about doing business with.
I would say in relation to some of the remarks made during the debate that, as helpful as the shadow Assistant Treasurer has tried to be, firstly, in plagiarising the government in moving amendments originally by lifting our original bill as an amendment, they got caught out, sadly, when they did that because their amendments which were lifted from the government cross-referenced bills weren't part of the bill that they were seeking to amend. That was a bit embarrassing for the shadow Assistant Treasurer, but we give him a little bit of leeway there.
In relation to the point that was just made about the importance of ensuring that we do the job once, that we do it properly and that taxpayers certainly aren't forced to do it twice in a costly way or in a way that's not effective, the director identification numbers—for those on the other side who don't understand—only work when they are linked to the company registers. We know there are 32 registers. It only works if they are linked to those. When we're dealing with legacy systems that desperately need upgrading, you must upgrade those systems simultaneously with the implementation of the DIN, and that is what we are doing. That is what these bills seek to do. I, therefore, commend the bills to the House.