• Overview

    Registrar’s review

    I am pleased to present the 2013-14 Report of the Australian Business Registrar.

    This year we report on our continued investment into digital infrastructure that reduces the intrusion and impact on business when reporting to government.

    The ABR Program is building a whole-of-government digital infrastructure for the exchange of entity-specific information among businesses and government agencies. The Program’s ultimate scope encompasses all the ways that businesses interact with government services – providing the essential identification, authentication and transaction services.

    Our objective is to use technology to re-engineer business practices. The vision is an environment where information is exchanged routinely and automatically using natural business systems - rather than businesses having to prepare a multitude of bespoke reports for different agencies, requiring the creation of an unnecessarily large range of datasets.

    The highlights for the ABR program in 2013-14 were:

    • implementation of a new online registration process for ABNs that is easier to use and captures more accurate and detailed information on businesses.
    • the release of the Australian Reporting Dictionary in July 2013, presenting a searchable and easy to understand view of the growing number of harmonised data items now part of Standard Business Reporting.
    • adoption of a whole-of-government messaging standard for business-to-government and government-to-government transactions - opening up opportunities for new and innovative service offerings that are based on SBR standards but is not constrained by the need to use infrastructure operated by particular agencies.
    • an increase in new SBR-enabled software products being offered, with suppliers of existing products adding more report types to their products – particularly prompted by the announcement of the upgrade of the ATO’s Electronic Lodgment Service (ELS) to make it SBR compliant.
    • An increase in the number of active AUSkeys - offering an authentication solution for business-to-government interaction that meets the security requirements of users and agencies, across the whole-of-government.

    In the coming year we will continue our efforts:

    • to address the data quality issues that have been highlighted in our survey results to further enhance the accuracy of the data on the Register and its value to our stakeholders in the year ahead
    • to increase the adoption of SBR
    • to support business, other agencies and software providers in their use of our services to be part of the overall effort to cut red-tape and improve the experience of businesses dealing with government.


    Chris Jordan signature

    Chris Jordan AO
    Registrar of the Australian Business Register

    What we do

    The Registrar is responsible for the ABR Program. In this role, the Registrar and supporting staff maintain the ABR, develop the infrastructure and provide policy advice and strategic planning for SBR, and operate AUSkey.

    These whole-of-government functions constitute Program 1.3 of the Treasury Portfolio Budget Statement for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

    Legislative framework and the Registrar’s powers

    The ABR is established under A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999 (ABN Act).

    Under the ABN Act, the Registrar is required to maintain the ABR in accordance with the requirements of the Act, including issuing ABNs and maintaining a publicly available register.

    The ABN Act also provides for the Registrar to facilitate electronic dealings between businesses and government entities, for which SBR provides the infrastructure. The Registrar uses the Act’s administrative powers as the custodian and issuing authority for AUSkeys, which allow businesses to authenticate their identities when dealing online with government agencies.

    The Registrar is required to provide an annual report to the Minister (the Assistant Treasurer) on the operation of the Act. This is done in the Commissioner of Taxation Annual Report and supplemented by this document.

    The ABN Act is a taxation act for the purposes of the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA). For example, Part IVC of the TAA (which deals with objections, reviews and appeals in relation to decisions) applies to ABN reviewable decisions by the Registrar, and failure to update details on the ABR is an offence under 8C of the TAA.

    How we operate

    In providing a whole-of-government resource, the Registrar and staff work with a range of agencies, including:

    • 462 agency partners (federal, state/territory and local government) that use ABR non-public data in accordance with the ABN Act
    • 24 agencies that have adopted AUSkey as an authentication solution for their online services
    • a range of participating agencies and other stakeholders in SBR
    • the ATO, which provides a range of services for the ABR Program, including registration processing and information technology infrastructure
    • the Department of Industry, which hosts the ABN Lookup facility (www.abr.business.gov.au) and operates VANguard, the AUSkey validation service.

    ABR Program governance and external scrutiny

    The operation of the whole-of-government work administered by the Registrar is guided by a number of key advisory and decision-making forums, including the ABR Advisory Board, the SBR Board and the SBR Steering Group. In addition to the Boards with members from various organisations, formal scrutiny roles exist with the ANAO.

    ABR Advisory Board

    In administering the ABR, the Registrar is assisted by the ABR Advisory Board. The Board has been established to provide a whole-of-government perspective on the development and operations of the ABR in its function as a resource to be used by all levels of government in interacting with the Australian business community.

    While the Registrar is accountable for the ABR's outcomes, the Board provides advice on priorities for the program of work with the aim of promoting the use of the ABR as a whole-of-government service and reducing compliance costs for businesses in dealing with government.

    The ABR Advisory Board is also the governing body for the AUSkey authentication tool.

    The Board meets twice a year. Membership of the Board is decided by the Registrar in consultation with the Government. The Registrar is Chair of the Board.

    Among matters discussed during 2013-14, the ABR Advisory Board considered work underway to improve the Register through the Towards a Better Business Future (TBBF) and Reducing Business Costs (RBC) Government Budget programs, as well as initiatives to assist government at all levels with disaster response and recovery. As the governing body for AUSkey, the Board was also presented with updates on the usage of the system and the future of the authentication solution.

    Membership of the ABR Advisory Board

    Commonwealth agencies

    State, territory and local government agencies

    Australian Bureau of Statistics

    ACT Revenue (representing state and territory revenue offices)

    Australian Business Register

    Small Business Victoria (representing state government agencies)

    Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

    Office of NSW Small Business Commissioner

    Australian Securities and Investments Commission

    Australian Local Government Association

    Australian Taxation Office


    Department of Finance


    Department of Human Services


    Department of Industry


    Department of the Treasury



    ABR Advisory Board members

    Back row L to R: Jan Harris (Treasury) Greg Tanzer (Australian Securities and Investments Commission) Barry Sandison (Department of Human Services), Robert Ravanello (Australian Taxation Office), Sue Weston (Department of Industry), Chris Jordan AO (Registrar, Australian Business Register)Seated L to R: Ian Ewing (Australian Bureau of Statistics), Mark Jackson (Australian Business Register) Adrian Beresford-Wylie (Australian Local Government Association) Christine Williams (ABS – Guest), Robyn Hobbs AO (NSW Small Business Commissioner)Absent: Dr Stein Helgeby Department of Finance, Roger Arwas Small Business Victoria, Kim Salisbury ACT Revenue Office, Marion Grant Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

    SBR Board

    The SBR Board, chaired by the Secretary to the Treasury, is the primary policy and direction setting body for the SBR program. The Board provides overall guidance, endorses strategic plans, decides the program’s scope and strategic intent and, where appropriate, resolves strategic issues.

    Meeting twice in 2013-14, the focus of the SBR Board was on identifying opportunities to extend the SBR Program, including for government-to-government and business-to-business applications. The Board also initiated work to modify the SBR taxonomy so as to facilitate expansion in the use of SBR, particularly in relation to non-financial data.

    Membership of the SBR Board

    Secretary to the Treasury (Chair)

    Secretary, Department of Industry

    Secretary, Department of Human Services

    Secretary, Department of Health

    Secretary, Department of Communications

    Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics

    Commissioner of Taxation

    Chairman, Australian Securities and Investments Commission

    Chairman, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority

    Deputy Secretary, Governance and Resource Management Group, Department of Finance

    Deputy Secretary, Economic and Strategy, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

    Deputy Registrar, Australian Business Register (Chair, SBR Steering Group)

    Executive Director and Commissioner, Office of State Revenue Queensland (representing the eight state and territory revenue offices)

    Representative, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

    Representative, Australian Board of Taxation

    Representative, Business Council of Australia

    Representative, Council of Small Business of Australia (also representing the SBR Business Advisory Forum)


    SBR Board members


    Standing: Mark Jackson (ABR), Drew Clarke (Communications), Paul Madden (Health), Trevor Sutton (ABS), Rosemary Deininger (Finance)Seated: Kathryn Campbell (Human Services), Peter Strong (Council of Small Business of Australia), Rob Heferen (Treasury) acting Secretary to the Treasury on behalf Dr Martin Parkinson, Geoff Leeper (ATO), Sue Weston (Industry), David Hazlehurst (PM&C)

    SBR Steering Group

    The SBR Steering Group, chaired by the Deputy Registrar of the ABR, provides operational assurance and guidance for the program in the following areas; design, performance against project plans, performance against financial plans, program outcomes, and resolution of cross agency issues.

    The Steering Group, which met four times in 2013-14, provided advice to the SBR Board on program strategy issues, and worked to align the AUSkey and VANguard systems for the authentication of ebMS3 messages between business and government. Representation on the Steering Group was expanded to encompass the wider range of agencies seeking to make use of SBR for their data transactions.

    Membership of the SBR Steering Group

    Deputy Registrar, Australian Business Register (Chair)

    General Manager, Deregulation Division General Manager, ICT Engagement and VANguard, Department of Industry

    National Manager, Government Business, Department of Human Services

    First Assistant Secretary, Efficiency, Assurance and Digital Government, Department of Finance

    First Assistant Secretary, Best Practice Regulation and Deregulation, Department of Health

    Assistant Secretary, E-government Branch, Department of Communications

    General Manager, Statistics, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority

    Senior Executive, Registry Transformation, Australian Securities and Investments Commission

    First Assistant Statistician, Program Delivery Division, Australian Bureau of Statistics

    First Assistant Commissioner, Enterprise Applications, Australian Taxation Office

    Executive Director and Commissioner of State Revenue, NSW Office of State Revenue (representing the eight state and territory revenue offices)


    SBR Steering Group members


    Steve Hamilton (ATO), Jenine Borowik (ABS), Richard Sandlant (Treasury), Mike Sibly (Industry), Malcolm Young (Industry), Mark Jackson (ABR), Justin Douglas (Treasury), Andrew Young (Human Services), Neil Tothill (ABR).

    External scrutiny

    The Registrar’s decisions and operations are subject to review by a range of external bodies including the courts and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), parliamentary committees, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Australian Information Commissioner.

    ANAO performance audit

    The ANAO undertook a performance audit of the ABR Program in 2013-14, with the report* stating its recommendation in the following terms:

    ‘To make it easier for business to deal with government, the ANAO recommends that the Registrar of the ABR works with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Department of Industry and the Department of the Treasury to:

    (a) review the entry points to government; and

    (b) develop and implement the most effective and efficient delivery mechanism for businesses to meet their registration and reporting requirements, and to access information and services from government.’

    The Registrar’s response
    ‘The Registrar is committed to continuing to work collaboratively with government agencies, including the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Department of Industry and the Treasury, to further explore and deliver whole of government outcomes that reduce the compliance burden and make it easier for business to deal with all levels of government.
    Since the development of the Business Reporting and Registration business line in 2010, the whole-of-government initiatives (Australian Business Register, Standard Business Reporting and AUSkey) that come under the umbrella of the Australian Business Register (ABR) program have continued to evolve.  
    As noted in the report, the two Federal Budget initiatives, Towards a Better Business Future and Reducing Business Costs, are helping to improve the integrity of the information held on the ABR, as well as making it easier for business to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and meet their reporting obligations to government.  
    The 2014 vision for the ABR Program of work is to ‘Contribute to improving the wellbeing of the Australian people through enhanced business productivity by:  
    1. Reducing the administrative cost to business of complying with government regulation,  
    2. Influencing government policy and implementation, through advocating the use of services, technologies and processes to minimise the administrative impact on business, and  
    3. Encouraging the adoption of new practices by businesses to reduce operating costs’  
    We will explore opportunities to identify where further changes can be made to the ABR in the future.
    * ANAO, Administration of the Australian Business Register, June 2014

    Our Executive

    The ABR Program is managed by an Executive comprising the following senior roles:

    • Deputy Registrar – responsible for day-to-day administration of the ABR; provides leadership to the ABR workforce; works with other government agencies to maintain and enhance the ABR, AUSkey and SBR as whole-of-government resources.
    • Assistant Registrar, Policy and Strategy – responsible for influencing policy development and implementation, ensuring that the legislation we are responsible for is applied appropriately and that governance arrangements are in place to improve decision making and provide transparency.
    • Assistant Registrar, Operations – responsible for authoritative information and for reducing the cost of compliance through the delivery of online services; supports business and government interactions including streamlined registration, authentication and reporting. 
    • Assistant Registrar, Operations Projects – established to look at specific operations projects to meet a short term need.
    • Assistant Registrar, Stakeholder Engagement and Adoption – responsible for understanding the needs and expectations of stakeholders and users, and delivering effective strategies that increase knowledge, confidence and use of our services.
    • The Executive reports to the Second Commissioner of Taxation, People, Systems and Services Group, as well as the Registrar (who is also the Commissioner of Taxation). The Registrar is responsible for administering the ABR under the ABN Act, and the Second Commissioner leads the business operations, technology and knowledge management functions of the ATO.

    Figure 1: Organisational structure at 30 June 2014


    ABR Organisation Chart

    • Last modified: 07 Dec 2015QC 852