The proposed sale of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission branch, flagged under former Treasurer Joe Hockey, has entered the final stages with the deadline for private bids due on Monday (August 29th).
Unions and tax campaigners have entered a last-minute appeal to stop the sale, which they say will impede efforts to reveal more about the beneficial ownership of companies in Australia – a crucial tool in the fight to stamp out crimes such as tax evasion and money laundering.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann left the door open to keeping the databases on Thursday, telling Fairfax Media the government “has not made a decision on whether it will go ahead with the sale”.
The chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims, who will oversee any purchase, said he had met the department of finance over appropriate regulation.
“It’s a monopoly asset so we want to make sure that when a private company owns a monopoly asset … Obviously they will be charging as much as they can so you need some regulatory arrangements stopping them from taking advantage of that,” he said.
The government says it will introduce legislation to protect access to corporate data but has not revealed what form this would take.
ASIC holds more than 10 million records of Australian companies, which include financial statements, director names, director backgrounds, and shareholder information. It also managers the registers of company auditors, managed investment schemes and the more than 22,000 financial advisers recently placed on the Financial Advisers Register.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
BIIA Editorial Comment: Privatizing the corporate register makes sense. It will foster innovation and transparency. The Australian government should be well advised to sell the register. The central register is an asset, which may soon be made redundant by the advances of technology such as the decentralized blockchain ledger system. The State of Delaware has made it an imperative to work on the concept themselves before the central register authority will be replaced by a private decentralized blockchain ledger system.
Another successful privatization took place in Thailand many years ago. The Ministry of Commerce has put the management of the corporate register into private hands. Business Online Thailand (BOL) has operated the digital database and served as a conduit to the public on a licensing basis. In addition, BOL has created additional products and services using the register data as a reliable source. Thus privatization does foster innovation and transparency.