13 July 2017
Speech - #2017014, 2017

Address to the Centre for Business Analytics’ Inaugural Conference, Melbourne

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Thank you, Mark for that introduction, and good morning, everyone.

It’s wonderful to be here on behalf of the Prime Minister to open the Centre for Business Analytics’ inaugural conference.

It feels rather familiar, actually.

Melbourne Law School, you may not know, is my alma mater. It’s where I learnt the value of solid evidence — making this a rather appropriate venue for a conference that brings together Australia’s leading data-driven organisations and practitioners.

The importance of data 

And what an important topic it is: Data.

Whether it’s data science, or big-data analytics, or data visualisation — to name just a few — data is now a byword for opportunity.

And it’s changing how we live, do business and govern. 

The ever-increasing sophistication of data — what the information is, how we gather it, what we do with it — is leading to more innovation, more efficiency and more competition across Australia’s economy.

It doesn’t matter what sector you’re in. It might be real estate, or healthcare, or aviation — the story is the same.

It’s exciting.

It’s exciting for consumers and businesses, and — as is the case for many of you here — anyone involved identifying and analysing data.

There is, after all, a reason why the Harvard Business Review named data science as “the sexiest job of the 21st century”.1 

But, that said, data doesn’t transform through mere existence.

It’s the job of business and industry to understand the value of data; to take advantage of the opportunities data offer them to change and grow.

That is why this conference — and the work of the Centre for Business Analytics more generally — is so important.

It is optimising the understanding businesses have of this new data frontier, and providing a crucial link between students, research faculties and industries to maximise success.

And that is exactly what is needed — for everyone to be working in tandem to achieve the very best results. 

Government and data

The same goes for government. And I’d like to say a bit more on that while I’m here.

Governments have long seen the value in data.

Only a couple of weeks ago, we had one of the best examples of this when the 2016 census results were released.

The results revealed that the ‘typical’ Australian is a 38-year-old female. She’s married with three children, has completed year 12 and lives in a three-bedroom house.2

The census also told us that ours is a rapidly changing nation.3

We’re bigger.

We’re wealthier.

We’re more diverse.

And this is just the tip of the data iceberg.

With this first set of Census results, we have access to a staggering 68 million facts, 30,000 community profiles, and enough information to support funding decisions right across our vast nation — whether it’s in health care, education or transport, to name a few.

However, it’s not just governments that can and do use this data.

Researchers, not-for-profits and businesses can tap into this wealth of information to plan, strategise and adapt.

Take the example of Lifeline. This vital telephone crisis counselling service is using the Census results — those that tell us that Australia is more culturally diverse — as the basis to explore the new services offerings.

These include a possible Chinese-language helpline, as well as recruiting multicultural crisis supporters.

In fact, using census data is easier than ever before, with any Australian able to access data packs and table builders on the ABS website, which can be customised to meet their needs.4

So, the census offers a remarkable, across-the-board opportunity.

Of course, the census is just one of many examples of how the Government is using data — and our efforts are ramping up as technology creates new opportunities.

The Turnbull Government values innovation, and we know that by using data in new ways we can secure better policy outcomes, and improve services for all Australians.

That is why, following the Productivity Commission’s final report on Data Availability and Use, the Government has formed a cross-agency taskforce to produce a whole-of-government response. 

This expected to be finalised by the end of this year after feedback from all levels of government, stakeholders and the public has been considered.

And, with that in mind, I encourage all of you to have your say on how we can improve the Government’s data agenda.

SuperStream                                                     

While that is happening, however, the Government continues implementing changes and refining data use across a number of areas.

So let me, in the time remaining, give you two examples from my own portfolio.

The first is SuperStream.

The superannuation sector is one which has grown enormously over the last 25 years and it now manages over $2 trillion in retirement savings on behalf of the Australian people. But there are many ways in which this sector in particular can benefit from modernisation and data-driven technology has a vital role to play.

Now, for those not aware, SuperStream is the way businesses must pay employee superannuation guarantee contributions to super funds.

Essentially, it allows money and data to be sent electronically in a standard format.

It was introduced a few years ago, marking the biggest change to data standards since the GST was introduced it 2001.

And, in that time, SuperStream has delivered benefits to members, employers and funds.

For instance, processing is now simpler and quicker, and we have seen an 87 per cent reduction in the cheque numbers used in payments.

There are also faster rollovers and easier consolidation of superannuation accounts. To put that in perspective, fund members can now complete a rollover in three days — or less — compared to the previous 45 to 60 days.

The process can also be done online by members in minutes.

Finally, it is easier to recover lost and unclaimed monies, which has resulted in a significant drop in the number of lost super accounts.

The ATO will shortly be releasing its SuperStream benefits report, which I encourage you to look out for. However, we do know that SuperStream efficiencies have delivered around $800 million in benefits for employers and funds, while members are saving an estimated $2.4 billion each year. And that means more income in retirement.

Single Touch Payroll

So this is a great outcome for all involved — and the same can be said for the changes happening with Single Touch Payroll.

Simply put, Single Touch Payroll — or STP — is giving businesses the opportunity to align their existing payroll functions with more regular reporting of their tax and super.

Employers can use their Standard Business Reporting-enabled software to report their Pay-As-You-Go withholding and superannuation information to the ATO, while at the same time undertaking their payroll process.

So what does that mean in practice?

Well, it means there’s no need to provide payment summary annual reports to the ATO.

It means PAYG withholding amounts will be pre-filled.

It means there will be no need to send a separate tax file number declaration to the ATO for new employees.

And those are only a few of the benefits.

In short, it’s streamlining the reporting process and reducing the regulatory burden on business — and it will become a standard requirement for those with 20 or more employees from 1 July 2018.

But it’s not only businesses that win from the initiative.

For instance, STP will improve the ATO’s ability to monitor PAYG withholding and superannuation guarantee compliance in real time — putting them in a better position to protect employees.

And employees will be able to access even more information on myGov.

For example, the information on annual payment summaries will progressively be made available on myGov, allowing people to track income payments to help them, among many things, determine their welfare eligibility.

Concluding remarks

So those are just two examples of what is happening with data in my portfolio. 

With much information nowadays coming from new data sources such as social media and generated by users of services, the challenges and opportunities are evolving. A key challenge is to ensure data integrity, security and confidentiality.

The opportunity for government, business and the community to cooperate for the common good is boundless, as is the opportunity to innovate.

As I said, this is an exciting time. And I know everyone here will push back the existing data frontier to reveal new facts about the world we now know.

So let me wish you all the best for the remainder of the conference, and I very much look forward to hearing about your progress.

Thank you.


1 http://www.smh.com.au/business/is-being-a-data-scientist-the-sexiest-job-of-the-21st-century-20150412-1mjk7q.html

2 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs%40.nsf/mediareleasesbyCatalogue/5E54C95D3D5020C6CA2580FE0013A809?OpenDocument

3 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/2024.0

4 http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/Home/Census?OpenDocument&ref=topBar