The Modernising Business Registers (MBR) Program introduced by the Morrison Government in 2019 was to deliver a new modern digital registry system for Australia that would be one source of truth of information and streamline processes for businesses. It would unify the ATO's Australian Business Register (ABR) and the 31 registers administered by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) all in one place in a purpose built contemporary digital registry platform called the Australian Business Registry Services (ABRS).
The ABRS website promised:
Streamlined Services - Making your registry transactions more efficient.
Less Red Tape - Helping you meet your registry obligations.
Better data quality - Giving you access to trusted and valuable information.
It was a long overdue and much anticipated overhaul of our cumbersome and archaic ASIC registry systems and processes. Despite ongoing delays, there was much anticipation pending the launch of the new registry platform, that would eventually link ABNs and director IDs to approximately 2.6 million registered companies in the new platform and would replace the existing ASIC registry system. A system considered by many as no longer fit for purpose.
However, the new ABRS registry platform is now just a pipe dream
In February this year, the Albanese Government commissioned an independent review of the hugely complex MBR Program with findings expected by 30 June 2023. The review was anticipated to deliver a comprehensive understanding of the current state of the program and provide recommendations for changes, improvements and strategies to best position it to achieve its intended objectives.
On 28 August 2023, following the release of the Independent Report of the MBR Program by Mr Damon Rees PSM, the Government announced that the program will now be scrapped. While the review considered various options to turn the program around, it ultimately concluded that the program 'could not deliver value for money’ with massive blow-outs in costs and delivery timeline, and accordingly should stop!
You can read the announcement by The Hon Stephen Jones MP on 28 August 2023 here: Ministers Treasury Portfolio
Options and Findings
The detailed report offered 5 options and considered each in detail:
You can read the final report of the Independent Review of the MBR program by Mr Damon Rees PSM released 28 August 2023 here: The Treasury
Ultimately, Mr Rees recommended the MBR Program be stopped and the return of registry functions from the ATO to ASIC with attempts to save some of the systems developed during the MBR program. He recommended the return of registry functions to a new division within ASIC with additional targeted investments by the Government to uplift data integrity and quality to stabilise legacy systems to deliver improvements to the current registries.
Registry operations will continue under ASIC in their current form. The legal requirement for directors to apply for a Director ID is unaffected. This is despite Director ID numbers currently sitting idle in the ABRS platform with no immediate solution to linking them to registered companies. We wonder if the Government will deliver on the budget promise to abolish company search fees and exorbitant late penalty fees. We wonder how long Australians and even foreign businesses wanting to enter the Australian market will need to endure current inefficient processes, which continue to include hard copy lodgements via mail, challenges communicating with ASIC for even the simplest of matters and enormous red tape and duplication of effort.
We will now need to wait for the Government to regroup and consider how it will improve our business registries. Until then it’s business as usual with ASIC registry, ABRS for director IDs, ABR for ABNs, ASIC Connect, ASIC Regulatory Portal and the Licensee Portals.