This section summarises the principal regulatory bodies with whom businesses in Australia come into contact regularly – a number of which have been referred to earlier in this guide.
Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC)
ASIC is an independent Commonwealth government body that regulates companies, financial markets and financial service providers to ensure that their activities are carried out honestly and transparently.
ASIC is responsible for administering legislation such as the Corporations Act (Cth) and the Financial Services Reform Act 2001 (Cth) and ensuring that companies, financial service providers and their employees comply with the requirements under those Acts.
Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)
ASX is the eighth largest securities exchange in the world and is itself a public listed company. ASX releases detailed reports on market information (such as stock prices), delivers stock market announcements and assists with market education.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
The ACCC is responsible for enhancing the welfare of Australia through the promotion of competition and fair trading in the Australian marketplace and for the protection of consumers. It regulates companies and individuals to ensure compliance with the CCA. It can also regulate foreign companies conducting business or engaging in activities in Australia.
The ACCC has significant powers to make decisions or take legal action in respect of consumer protection matters and matters involving anti-competitive behaviour. It has powers to assess whether acquisitions of shares or assets may result in the lessening of competition in the market in breach of the CCA. State and territory consumer affairs agencies also enforce fair trading and consumer protection matters.
Australian Taxation Office (ATO
The ATO is the statutory authority responsible for collecting revenue for the Australian government. It develops and manages the systems that control taxation, excise and superannuation. Australia's income tax law is comprised of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Cth), the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (Cth) and the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth), as well as administrative taxation rulings and court decisions. The current income tax system includes the taxation of income and capital gains of individuals and businesses.
Fringe benefits provided to employees are subject to a separate regime under the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986 (Cth). Australia's goods and services taxation law is contained in A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 (Cth).
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
AUSTRAC is Australia's anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator. Incoming and outgoing monetary transactions may be subject to reporting requirements to AUSTRAC.
Specific requirements exist for a wide range of financial services providers, the gambling industry and others. The regulations are contained in the Financial Transactions Reports Act 1988 (Cth) and the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (Cth).
Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB)
FIRB provides foreign investment policy advice to the Australian federal government. FIRB examines the proposals of foreign investors investing in Australia and advises the government whether the proposals comply with foreign investment policies and the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (Cth). The Treasurer has the right (which is rarely exercised) to disallow a foreign investment proposal.
FIRB issues policy documents which outline the kinds of investments for which a foreign investor will need approval. Additionally, there are some limits on the amount and types of investment a foreign investor can make, for example, purchasing shares in an Australian company or land.
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
ACMA is the government body responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, the Internet, radio communications and telecommunications. ACMA's responsibilities include promoting self-regulation and competition in the communications industry, while protecting consumers and other users. ACMA is also responsible for enforcing Australia's anti-spam law, the Spam Act 2003 (Cth).
Clean Energy Regulator
The Clean Energy Regulator is the government body responsible for administering legislation aimed at reducing carbon emissions and increasing the use of clean energy.
The Clean Energy Regulator is part of the Climate Change Portfolio and administers schemes such as the Carbon Pricing Mechanism and the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting scheme.
The Clean Energy Regulator works in collaboration with stakeholders and clients – including government departments and agencies, industry bodies, reporting entities and the community – to assist the transition of Australia to a low carbon economy.
Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia (ITSA)
The Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia is the government agency responsible for the administration and regulation of the personal insolvency system, proceeds of crime, trustee services and the administration of the PPSR.
IP Australia is the regulatory body in respect of intellectual property in Australia. Its main purpose is to administer and keep records of registered patents, designs, trade marks and plant breeder's rights.
Members of the public are able to search the records of IP Australia for information relating to intellectual property rights, including registers of trade marks, designs and patents.
Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
The TGA is a unit of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, responsible for administering the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth). The TGA carries out a range of assessment and monitoring activities to ensure therapeutic goods available in Australia are of an acceptable standard, with the aim of ensuring that the Australian community has access to therapeutic advances.
Therapeutic goods, which include medicines as well as medical devices, must be entered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods before they can be supplied in Australia.
.au Domain Administration
auDA is a not-for-profit organisation which was formed in 1999 as the industry self-regulating body for the .au domain name. It has been formally recognised by the Federal Government and has the power to develop and implement domain name policy.
It is responsible for granting licences for second level domain registry operators (e.g. obtaining a .com.au, .net.au or .org.au webpage), as well as ensuring consumer protection by implementing safeguards and dealing with complaints.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.