The federal government has unveiled an $800 million digital business package, but more than half of the funding is going towards following through with a 2018 budget promise to consolidate business registers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday announced the JobMaker Digital Business Plan, a funding package aiming to “drive Australia’s economic recovery”.
“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,” Mr Morrison said.
“Our JobMaker Digital Business Plan provides significant backing to continue that digital push and expand opportunities for businesses to grow and create more jobs.”
“The plan 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.”
But by far the largest chunk of the funding is directed at a one-stop business registry that has been in the works for several years, with further cash also for the digital identity program, 5G projects and the Consumer Data Right.
Just under $420 million from the package funds implementation of the Modernising Business Registers Program, which aims to combine the Australian Business Register and the 31 registers overseen by ASIC put together into the one registry, to be operated by the ATO.
This would enable “businesses to quickly view, update and maintain their business registry data in one location”.
This plan was first announced in the 2018-19 budget, with $19.3 million provided for a business case for modernising the registers. In November last year the government again announced that it would be upgrading and consolidating the range of business registers into the one system.
But the announcement has been labelled a “cash-rehash and three years late” by the Opposition.
“More than half of the money headlining today’s announcement is backfilling an announcement from 2017 and a funding envelope revealed last year to create a Director Identification Number,” Labor shadow ministers said in a statement.
“Labor will examine the details of this latest announcement and consult with stakeholders and industry. After months of spin over substance, Australians deserve a plan from the Morrison government to promote growth, protect and create jobs, support business and set us all up for the recovery.”
The other large funding element from the announcement is $257 million going towards the government’s existing GovPass digital identity program.
The other elements of the package are smaller funding announcements for a range of initiatives, including the commercialisation of 5G technologies, further funding for the Consumer Data Right, a pair of blockchain trials and a regtech commercialisation program.
Nearly $30 million will go towards various 5G programs, including $22.1 million for the establishment of the Australian 5G Innovation Initiative, which will invest in 5G commercial trials and testbeds in key industries including agriculture, mining, logistics and manufacturing.
A further $1.8 over two years will be invested in systems looking at more efficient spectrum allocation, while $5.3 million will go towards updating and simplifying the digital spectrum licence system.
The Consumer Data Right scheme, which has already received $120 million, will be getting a further $28.5 million for its expansion to the energy sectors and continued rollout in banking.
The Australian Small Business Advisory Service – Digital Solutions program will be expanded with $22.2 million in funding, including a Digital Readiness Assessment Tool and a Digital Directors Training package.
Other initiatives in the package include $11.4 million for a regulatory technology commercialisation initiative, $9.6 million to help fintechs export their services and attract inward investment, $6.9 million for two blockchain pilot programs, $5.9 million to “boost Australia’s influence on international standards” and $3.6 million for the adoption of electronic invoicing across all government agencies by mid-2022.
A further $2.5 million is being targeted at digital skills and SMEs.