Australia pledges $566 million in push for digital business compliance

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia said it will spend A$800 million ($566 million) on measures to help businesses take their administration and regulatory compliance online, citing higher demand due to changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government said it would spend A$420 million coordinating Australia’s more than 30 company registers and put them online, “allowing businesses to quickly view, update and maintain their business registry data in one location”.

It would also spend A$257 million to expand a digital identity system for people interacting with the main government internet portal, including a permanent “director identification number” to help prevent “phoenix” activity where people avoid liability by shutting down one failed company and setting up a new one to carry out the same business.

The government said it would allocate the funding when it delivers its annual budget on Oct. 6. It usually unveils the budget in May but delayed it due to difficulty giving economic forecasts in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Many businesses moved online quickly when the pandemic hit, undergoing a decade of change in months, finding new customers or new ways of doing things,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement on Tuesday.

The digital package “provides significant backing to continue that digital push” and “supports Australia’s economic recovery by removing out-dated regulatory barriers, boosting the capability of small businesses, and backs the uptake of technology across the economy”.

The measures include spending A$29 million on the roll-out of 5G high-speed internet and A$28.5 million to promote “open banking”, where customers can shop around for financial services with their own data.

It also includes A$6.9 million to test the use of blockchain – where information is stored on a network of computers, rather than in one place – to cut compliance costs.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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