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Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue
16/08/2017
Taxpayer engagement with the tax system

STRONG, Mr Peter, Chief Executive Officer, Council of Small Business Australia

[17:04]

CHAIR: I now welcome to the hearing the Council of Small Business Australia. We thank you for your submission to the inquiry and for attending the hearing to expand today. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the House of Representatives. As such, the giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege.

Peter, as you probably saw, we will obviously go to questions, but we very much invite you to make any opening remarks or comments.

Mr Strong : Yes, if I can. Can I say about the previous witness, Mr Edwards, that it was fascinating to listen to what he had to say, because I am, for my pains, the chairman of the Digital Business Council of Australia. I'll apologise now that people don't know about it, but it's one of those things you do. What the previous gentleman talked about is something that we're confronting quite a lot of. I am chairman, the founding chairman, of the Digital Business Council. We have representatives on there from Xero, from MYOB, from accounting firms, from software developers—they're a big part of this. We have many working groups that come out of this—semantic working groups, technical working groups; these sorts of things—whose job is to inform the council, and we have a secretariat provided by the ATO.

What they've done through the activities of the council is put out a tender for the development of a business capability locator, which is a way that the software—and this is where it's being driven, from the software—can say, 'Yes, this is a real business, and I can move this invoice.'

CHAIR: What was your terminology for that? A business what?

Mr Strong : Capability locator.

CHAIR: Capability locator?

Mr Strong : I know. Why couldn't they just call it something simple?

Ms OWENS: Could you say that again, sorry?

Mr Strong : Business capability locator. We have a website, the Digital Business Council of Australia website. If you look up Digital Business Council, you'll find it. We've been around for about three years now. We were put together by a very visionary person at the ATO who made sure at that time that it was industry run, which reflects what the previous witness was talking about: the absolute importance of having industry run this and be in charge of this. We are now bringing some government people into it—they would be from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the DTA, the Digital Transformation Agency—and we're also considering perhaps one of the central agencies as well.

In a lot of areas I don't understand what's going on, but they've got me there and a couple of others because it's about business. It's about us using e-invoicing. If I can explain that: currently, say I'm doing—

CHAIR: Sorry, Peter, to interrupt you. Are you saying this relates back to what Simon was saying about a digital identification number? Are you saying it ties in with that?

Mr Strong : Yes, when he was talking about that—because I think we're all agreeing that directors need a number, an identifier. That's not debatable anymore that I've seen. That then relates them to a company, because a company has to be registered, so those two have to go together. So what we're talking about is the process. This reflects upon black economies and also upon cybersecurity. This is our belief, and we're still working through this. I'll give you an example of that.

But at the moment the problem is that, if I deal with, say, Bunnings or one of the big players, often you have to retype an invoice, and that creates mistakes and is just time wasting, and when it gets to their end they often have to retype it. There's one big company that, when you lodge an invoice, charge you money to retype your invoice into their system. So we're looking to get rid of that problem. The software developers are very keen. Initially the biggest ones didn't seem to care, but certainly Xero and MYOB and those sorts of ones are all over it, and we're working together, because what they see is that they can be more competitive as a result of having a locator, so they can build systems.

Now I will come back to the cybersecurity and the black economy. In one of our meetings we had someone tell us, 'What if someone lodges a dodgy invoice?' We listened to a bit of a rant there. In the end I said: 'We get dodgy invoices now. It's been part of business forever. It's up to management to sort that out.' As we worked our way through it, we thought: with e-invoicing, when you have to set up a new payment process, whether it be PayPal or BPAY or a direct credit, or you have to change one, there's your red flag. There is the moment when you may be defrauded. That's when you go and check that the invoice is real. If Telstra's asking you to change your payment details, you'd have a guess there that it's not real. So we've got a moment there in time where it says okay, and the software developers are the ones who'll look at that and say, 'Right, how do I make sure that this message is put through to the business?' Now, what they're saying as a result of that—and this is still going through development—is that, once we go worldwide with this e-invoicing process and these locators, the IP address from which that invoice came will then be transmitted automatically out through the system, so there's a very quick identity of that IP address.

Mr LEESER: Mr Strong, you say in your submission that it is important to remove complexity in systems associated with finance and payments and allow easy regulation and easier compliance. Given that there's a need to protect the integrity of reporting and security associated with finance and payments, how do you think the complexity and regulation can reduced while still maintaining that same level of integrity, particularly in this space?

Mr Strong : When I talk about complexity, I talk about complexity for me the business operator. If the complexity is in the software, I don't see it and I don't care. We see that already. Things over the last 20 or 30 years have become so. When it comes to e-invoicing or single touch payroll et cetera, I put in the information; I do a pay run—

Mr LEESER: You're not saying that the interface is too complex—you're saying the complexity is in the back-end systems?

Mr Strong : That's right. The complexity is in the back end, so I don't have to send my information to five different places. Once it goes to the Tax Office, in this case, it will be distributed to those places as I would have had to do myself, because it has gone through a system that has integrity. It comes back to locators and a few other things. From our point of view that's fine. From the point of view of the black economy and compliance, what we're saying is we are happy to see governments mandate that business to government has to be through e-invoicing, because I can't imagine anyone that deals with government that doesn't have software. When we're talking about contracts, it doesn't make sense.

Once you do that, the software developers truly have a market to develop, and that puts the rest of us in the place where we can go and start doing that communication B to B. Then it gives the Tax Office the opportunity to say to someone, 'You're using e-invoicing, you're using software that has been recognised as good, therefore your chances of being visited are limited. There would have to be a proper red flag of some sort for us to visit you. If you're not using it, we're going to visit you and say, "Why are you not using this transparent way of payment and communicating with other businesses?"' That sounds simple, but simplicity is what we aim for. That has to be achieved through software developers who deal with the complexity inside the system.

Mr LEESER: Do you see any particular risks in the move to a more digitised economy for small business, in terms of greater compliance, risks of not properly understanding what is needed—education of small businesses, as it were?

Mr Strong : There are always risks. The risk is the change and how we do the change. I can come back to some of the recommendations that I am seeing out of the black economy task force of recent days, which have been a bit worrying. But the risk is at the change process, because of the nature of the complexity that we have in front of us. We can't deal with it even now, and we never will be able to deal with it. I just want to get on with running my business; I want to make sure I pay the staff to write money. There are certain things I should be able to do and I have to do, so let's not make it more complicated beyond that by having the ABS ring me up and demand something and Centrelink and all of these other people doing the same. That information is available in the software.

Mr LEESER: Mr Strong, do you represent any sole practitioner or small partnership accounting firms at all?

Mr Strong : Well, we do, yes. We represent mortgage brokers.

Mr LEESER: What are they saying to you about dealings with the Tax Office? We have heard from a number of peak accounting bodies in relation to dealings with the Tax Office. A number of those bodies have perhaps a larger membership in the larger firms and perhaps are not as in touch with some of the smaller practices as you might be. What are your smaller suburban accounting practices saying about dealing with the Tax Office?

Mr Strong : Beside the fact they don't like dealing with the Tax Office, when you push them—

Mr LEESER: I thought a cost of doing business as an accountant was dealing with the Tax Office.

Mr Strong : In the main they're positive. I've talked to them and said, 'How's the help line?' They say it's good. They're disappointed with certain processes and they are certainly disappointed with the failure of the websites. That is a business-to-business failure even though one of the businesses is government. It really has made it very difficult for people, there's no doubt about that. But up until then the feedback I have got has been quite good. We actually had a report done by the Productivity Commission a couple of years ago on regulator engagement with small business, and the tax office was not seen as a problem at all. It was other agencies that were seen as a problem. I know it suits some people to attack them and criticise them—as I say, their website failure is not good enough—but in the end we have great engagement with the tax office. Over the years at these meetings I have always said, 'Nobody's perfect, but they're pretty good.'

Mr LEESER: That is what the accounting practitioners are telling you, too?

Mr Strong : Yes.

CHAIR: I just want to go back to what Mr Leeser's just commented on. I want you to elaborate on this. One of the points that you make is about removing the complexity from systems. You have mentioned, fortunately, quite a number. You have touched on Single Touch Payroll and you mentioned superannuation also being a major one for visa holders, welfare recipients and a whole lot of rules around that. As you night have heard me ask the previous person, as regulators, what would you do if you were us making a recommendation to the minister to improve engagement with the taxpayer and, obviously, to also crack down on things in the economy? What would you recommend we do—a specific recommendation from this committee?

Mr Strong : Automation and those e-invoices. The reason I am still with the Digital Business Council is because I think that is absolutely the way forward. The question has to come from the regulator: why are you not using e-invoicing in your business? That question has got to come. Then, if you are using it, the question shouldn't come. Already we have seen that people using the invoicing program are getting paid quicker because it goes through the system, so that gets rid of one of the reasons—

CHAIR: But what about a specific recommendation? You would be saying this committee should be recommending that all business—all transactions between business and government, at least—should all done by e-invoices?

Mr Strong : Eventually. Mandating between business and government, I don't have a problem. I have discussed this with some people, and the only people that mightn't have software are people who go to ASIC to register as a director. You'd think most of them would. But when you are doing business with government, it's impossible to imagine you wouldn't have accounting software that you are dealing with.

CHAIR: Mandating business to government is one which we assume is happening anyway. It is much more difficult for business to business.

Mr Strong : Eventually, because then the marketplace would say, 'Okay, the software developers have developed this and we've got e-invoicing here so we can offer it between businesses.' The bigger businesses are going to say, 'We want that too.' Before you know it, when you are dealing with Coles and Woolies and the big end of town, you are going to need to have e-invoicing. Eventually, that will work its way through. If I come back to one of the things I have talked about there, it takes time to change the small business community. We can do it quickly, as we did with the GST. That was through money and a lot of communication processes and experts visiting every community in Australia, basically. That's how you change culture that quickly. Or we can wait for time to take place, which is three or four years, depending on what we are looking at. E-invoicing will happen—there's no doubt about it—and e-billing, e-payments and all these things will come with it, but we want to make sure they happen properly.

One of the things we talked about with the member for Parramatta and Mr Edwards is that one of the reasons we're looking at the locator is it gives everybody—all the software developers—access to that locator. It's not owned by anybody bar government. This is something we are very firm on because if it is owned by somebody they'll make a motza—they'll make a lot of money—which means somebody else will develop another version of it. It is called competition. But then we'll end up with the same situation we are in now, with all these different ways of paying, and it becomes a mess. We say the ABN rests with the tax office and at the moment the digital capability locator would also rest with government. Otherwise, it will become a commercial asset and somebody will compete with it and defeat the whole purpose of it.

Mr VAN MANEN: How does somebody access the e-invoicing system now?

Mr Strong : It is just part of your software. When you enter your invoice—

Ms OWENS: Sorry, enter your invoice where?

Mr Strong : You enter your information into MYOB, just as you do now. But when you send the invoice you don't do it as a pdf and you don't print it; you press a button and you need to put a locator in there. Your invoice will have an ABN on it anyway. It will have all of this information—the address and those sort of things on that particular business. You have to ask the software developers. Can I recommend you actually talk to software developers association.

Ms OWENS: We are.

Mr Strong : Then the system will find who you are sending that invoice to, make sure it's actually who it is going to and send it off. The other reason we like it is that there will be fewer mistakes on invoices. One of the reasons that businesses are paid late is that they don't put the invoice in on time—they forget; it's in an envelope somewhere—or they put mistakes on invoices—the wrong ABN or whatever. This will limit mistakes because the software will say, 'This is the wrong ABN.' It's already in the system or, when you first enter your new supplier, it will check to make sure the ABN matches the supplier at that particular moment. It streamlines—

Mr VAN MANEN: It doesn't require any new software; it uses whatever accounting system you have for your business?

Mr Strong : As long as it's invoicing-compliant, yes. With MYOB, Xero, Reckon and those sorts of people, you purchase online anyway. You work through the Cloud and they update it. I absolutely recommend you get three reps from those companies together because they're very keen to make sure people don't think they're cooperating in an uncompetitive way—and, let me tell you, they're not. They would certainly give you that information in a way that I can't. It is, as I say, the way of the future. We want to get there quickly. We also want to talk about our point of view.

I will tell a story about single-touch payroll. This is not me taking credit for the idea; otherwise, I might get shot. When Wayne Swan was the Treasurer, I remember his staff would come to my shop, when I had a shop, and we would talk about business. One day I said, 'Have you seen a pay run?' They hadn't. You have to be an employer to do a pay run. I told them to watch; it's just a pay run. I was doing a mock pay run with my policy head, not my employer head. I said, 'You get your hours from here and people forget to put them in.' I was going through all that and, when I got to the end, I said, 'Now I print or email.' In this case it was five pay advices and I would make five payments. I thought, 'Now that I'm doing this, why not make it six pay advices—one to the tax office—and if I want, and don't make this compulsory, six payments, because I'm doing it and it's not an extra thing that I have to do, like GST is an extra task I have to do. What we're saying—and I think the previous witness alluded to this—is that, as I bring sales in and out, the GST will be recorded and, we're not there yet, but that information will go to the tax office and the information moves freely, which is good for the ABS. When it comes to payments, that's a different issue because cash flow is king and queen of small business, but that's where we are heading. I'm doing a pay run anyway. Why do I then have to do a GST or a PAYG? That's the sort of process that we're looking at: seamless and the complexity is covered within the system. I don't see it; I'm happy; it's done; I can go back to business.

Ms OWENS: The Digital Business Council was established by the ATO?

Mr Strong : It was. It was with their secretarial support. It was the Australian Business Register, but that's part of the ATO. It was established by them. We had two co-chairs: myself and the then chair of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kate Carnell. With the change, they didn't want to be there. Basically, there is the other argument that says that the market should—

Ms OWENS: I just want to be clear about what the ATO is doing here—whether it's competing with the commercial sector on things that already exist. I want to get a clear picture of whether what we're looking at here is a top-down solution or whether we're talking about the sandbox-style solution. The ATO created it with the purpose of developing the business capability locator?

Mr Strong : No.

Ms OWENS: What was its purpose originally?

Mr Strong : Its purpose was to get e-invoicing happening, to start the process of having e-invoicing.

Ms OWENS: E-invoicing has existed for a long time.

Mr Strong : Not the e-invoicing we're looking at.

Ms OWENS: Not the ATO's e-invoicing?

Mr Strong : I'm not talking about the ATO; I'm talking about Europe. Europe has had the e-invoicing where software talks to each other. It's not a PDF.

Ms OWENS: That's how I received it via the windscreen repairer five years ago.

Mr Strong : That's good, but that's not common.

Ms OWENS: So it's been around for a long time. The banks have been doing it. I'm trying to get a picture. It was about e-invoicing. Who owns the e-invoicing system that you're talking about?

Mr Strong : The software developers have been so heavily involved. I'm with you.

Ms OWENS: These particular software developers?

Mr Strong : No, there's a lot of software developers involved in the groups that we have. There are working groups. We've had SAP involved. As I say, you need to go and talk to them about that process, because it's very complicated.

Ms OWENS: Yes, we've got them coming.

Mr Strong : It doesn't belong to the ATO in any way, shape or form.

Ms OWENS: Who does it belong to?

Mr Strong : It doesn't belong to anybody; that's the whole idea.

Ms OWENS: Who developed it?

Mr Strong : It's an open source upon which people can build what they want. What came out of all the working groups we've run for a couple of years was that we need a locator; we need the ability to locate and be sure we've found the right business.

Ms OWENS: I was going to ask this question before: what the hell is a 'business capability locator'? Is that an ID? What is it? And why does it have such a strange name?

Mr Strong : When the software developers came up with the name, I couldn't believe it! We said, 'Why can't an ABN be the way that the software recognises a business?' The technical people went through why. It's because of the fact that we have a problem with ABNs. All these people have ABNs and they're not operating businesses, so it doesn't have the integrity—

Mr VAN MANEN: Or they use ABNs that aren't theirs.

Mr Strong : Yes, they don't have the integrity that software developers—

Ms OWENS: I understand that the ABN is not good enough.

Mr Strong : So they wanted something with integrity, and that's why they've got this tender out at the moment.

Ms OWENS: The ATO has a tender out? For what?

Mr Strong : For someone to develop this locator. There's a tender on our website. I don't understand the technicalities of it.

Ms OWENS: We don't need to understand. It's what the previous guy referred to as a unique identifier of some sort.

Mr Strong : Yes, and that's what this is—

Ms OWENS: With the strange name.

Mr Strong : They spend a lot of time talking about: 'How do we make sure that it's not scammed, that it's real and that I can have faith that the invoice I send will go to the business I'm sending it to.

Ms OWENS: So the ATO has a tender out to pay someone else to develop a business capability locator system for the ATO?

Mr Strong : It's for the Digital Business Council.

Ms OWENS: The Digital Business Council will own it?

Mr Strong : This is the debate we're having. We have said that we don't want to own it, because we would have to incorporate and do all sorts of things, and at the next AGM there'd be lots of people trying to take it over. We had a long debate about this. It needs to belong to government.

Ms OWENS: Given the race that's going on around the world for this kind of digital identity and the fact that these things, by nature, will change dramatically and quickly over time, in this process with the ATO calling for tenders—usually someone else builds it—what is the process to make sure that it's not out of date in a year? It will be if it's not owned by someone who cares about its profit making capacity.

Mr Strong : You can imagine that, with something being called a digital capability locator, these are the sorts of things that come up. A working group would be formed to talk about that, and they would then come back and say, 'This is how we can make sure that, whatever changes come along, this can continue to be a process that will work for software.' Quite rightly, software developers say this is a waste of time because of exactly what you said: another process will come along and we don't want to kill off the opportunity for new innovations to come in.

What they've developed—and you'll have to get them in as they'll draw pictures and do all sorts of wonderful things—is a capability such that, as things change, I can still talk back into the system, no matter what the system is, as it changes, and it will be able to talk back. They talk about 'islands' and all sorts of weird things. I can't tell you any more than that except that we've gone through a big process of looking at those questions. The arguments I've seen, I've got to say, have been extraordinary, and what's kept me involved with the Digital Business Council is that nobody has left. Everybody has said, 'This has got to happen.' People have been very heated in their arguments, but they've said that these are the arguments we've got to have because we need to be able to talk to each other, and, at the moment, we can't.

Ms OWENS: So they're after a unique identifier?

Mr Strong : Yes.

Ms OWENS: This is exactly what PayPal is saying—they need unique identifiers. MYOB and Xero would also because they're all in the same game as PayPal. It's a slightly different game, but they all need the unique identifier. The question then is whether the tax office is the appropriate driver of that.

Mr Strong : Yes. As I say, our investigation said, 'If it's not the tax office, who is it?' We talked about ASIC and a range of things. But if we were to step outside the Public Service into the private sector, as soon as we did, someone else would invent another version of it and we would end up in exactly the same situation where I have to retype the invoices that I'm sending to Bunnings or somewhere else.

Mr VAN MANEN: So, given what PayPal was saying, there is potentiality for this to have—this is very Big Brother-ish—a unique identifier from the moment you're born that becomes used for everything?

Mr Strong : Again, these are questions they can answer. They've spent a lot of time saying, 'When you set up a new business, do you have the same identifier?' They've had these great debates about different ABNs, different identifiers and how do we make sure that the system works.

Mr VAN MANEN: I would envisage that companies would have different identifiers—

Mr Strong : They would.

Mr VAN MANEN: but the link would be created by the directors having the same identifier.

Mr Strong : That's right. So I'm a director. I could be a director of five different companies—

Ms OWENS: I think you guys don't support the directors identifier, but that's another matter!

Mr VAN MANEN: Don't include all of us in that, Julie!

Mr Strong : What we are heading towards is a way of managing much better the black economy and doing it through efficiency and doing it with a regulator. One of the reasons I talk about getting rid of complexity is it makes the regulator's job easier. Complexity is the friend of a criminal, always.

Ms OWENS: In the unique identifier space, business and the ATO—and the relationship from business to business and business to the ATO—are not the only stakeholders in a unique identifier. Have ASIC or AUSTRAC, or even the stock market—

Mr Strong : They have been consulted. Because it's part of what the software developers work with on a day-to-day basis with their software, as we heard, they've taken all of that into account and they've basically said: 'We're simplifying it by the locator. All the other things will continue to operate as they do. The locator is the key to this. Without that, we can't do it.'

Ms OWENS: I do understand. I understand the need for it.

Mr Strong : And it's got to belong to government. We've had several private sector companies who believe they invented this years ago and it's theirs, and they will make a lot of money out of it if it works. As I say, that would fail because I would go and invent one as well and then we'd have the same problem. Then you'd have another locator underneath. As I say, you'll be getting them in and they'll explain it much better. Give yourself an hour at least and a slideshow, seriously!

Mr VAN MANEN: In my part of the world, I have a lot of subcontractors. There were reports today in the Gold Coast Bulletin of another large building company going bust. What work is COSBOA doing and how are you seeing the issue of these construction companies? There are also allegations in this case of potential phoenixing. How are you seeing that as an issue—and maybe we discussed some of this stuff with PayPal earlier. Do you see that that has the potential to mitigate some of these issues? With some of these companies, whilst I acknowledge that cash flow is king, it's quite evident that they can't manage their cash flow. How do we deal with those issues to prevent small businesses and subcontractors getting, for want of a better word, stiffed on a regular basis?

Mr Strong : They're victims. They're absolute victims. We've worked with the tax office and others on the phoenixing area, and the government's going too slow on that. To their credit, they're being careful—they don't want to pick up people who aren't doing the wrong thing. At one stage we talked about an example where if someone sets up a new company twice in five years—no, it was more than that. If you've gone bankrupt more than twice in five years—all the fact you've been bankrupt means is you've learnt a lesson. But if you're going to be bankrupt twice, then the question's got to be asked by someone.

Mr VAN MANEN: We have got no real way of tracking those relationships and those networks. I can set up three companies with three directors: Bert V Manen, Bert Manen and Bert Van Manen. It's all the same person, but because there's not even a 100-point ID check to become a director of a company, I would have thought that would have been a good first step in trying to deal with some of these issues.

Mr Strong : As I say, we've got no problems with that. We agree with it. Small business are probably more victims in the construction sector, in particular, than employees. So we believe we need to go and do that. We want to make it easy, and that's why this Digital Business Council is so important, wherever it heads, because we want to make it easy from an industry point of view, which means we understand the regulator and we want the regulator to have a simple job. At the moment, if it was designed by government—it was heading down the stage of, 'No, we're not interested in B to B, because that's the free market and we can't get out there. We're only interested in B to G.' It's the same thing, the same computer. Unless you are going to have two different sets of software, it's the same thing. We want to be able to talk with each other and with you, and you need to be able to monitor it.

Mr VAN MANEN: But the current complexity makes it difficult for the regulator to do their job?

Mr Strong : In our opinion, yes.

Mr VAN MANEN: And the lack of focus on B to B, in addition to B to G—it is in the B to B space that we are potentially losing an enormous amount of revenue.

Mr Strong : Yes, and we need to make it simple. Could I also say that Australia is one of the better countries when it comes to the black economy; there is no doubt. As I said very early on in my submission, that is the message we get out there. It's not: 'Woe is me; this is bad. We've got a big problem.' It's: 'Most of us are fantastic. We've got to make sure that the others are as well.' That will motivate people to say: 'We are good. We do put our returns in on time. We do do that. Let's catch the bad people.' At the moment, there is an overreaction developing as though we've been a failure, and we are not. We're pretty good.

Ms OWENS: In MYEFO last year, the government announced that they would report businesses that hadn't paid their tax and hadn't engaged with the tax office for a period of time to the credit agencies. Have you had much response to that and have you had any consultation with the ATO on how that would work?

Mr Strong : Yes, we have. Kate Carnell's office, the ombudsman's office, has been doing a lot of work there, and again it's looking for the unintended consequence. If someone hasn't engaged with the Tax Office, the question is why. We don't want anything—the $10,000 limit. There are some people potentially that would get caught that actually haven't done the wrong thing.

Ms OWENS: And once you're on the credit list, you're gone.

Mr Strong : You're never going to get off it. The final bit of this is to make sure that those people who have done the right thing aren't punished because of what other people have done, which I think is fair. It's not a lot of people, but if it were me I wouldn't be happy if all of a sudden I couldn't get credit anymore and I'd done nothing wrong. That's what they're looking at with the ombudsman's office; they're doing a very good job of it. Otherwise most people are saying, 'If you haven't lodged a tax return for this amount of time, you haven't lodged a tax return. So someone needs to talk to you.' As I say, we're supporting that, because we don't want to go down the path of extra, over-the-top regulation, because that will create more noncompliance.

One of the recommendations they're investigating in the Black Economy Taskforce is an Australian business licence. It's not an ABN. You can't get the ABN unless you have an ABL, and to get the ABL you've got to do an exam and prove that you know about business. I know plenty of people who have doctorates in business who went bankrupt. It is the silliest way of doing something and all it means the true entrepreneur who just do their own things will go off and do it anyway and be noncompliant. Let's make it easy. It's too easy to get an ABN at the moment. I think we've gone too far. That's what happens—you always go too far or whatever. We need to bring that back. But let's not give someone an exam to become a business operator. It's like saying, 'We don't want entrepreneurs to do this.'

CHAIR: On that note, we thank you for your attendance at the hearing today. You'll be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence and will have an opportunity to request corrections to any transcription errors. If you've been asked to provide any additional material or if there's any further information that you would like to provide, please forward it to the secretariat by Monday, 4 September. Additionally, the committee may provide you with further written questions on notice in the course of this inquiry, with your responses to be taken as additional evidence. Thank you for your assistance in that, and thank you again for taking part today.

Mr Strong : Thank you for the invitation.

Resolved that these proceedings be published.

CHAIR: The next meeting of the committee will be at four o'clock on Wednesday, 6 September.

Committee adjourned at 17:39