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Bill English

14 July, 2011

Ministers English and Swan progress trans-Tasman relationship

Considerable progress has been made in further strengthening trans-Tasman ties, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bill English and Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan said.

After talks in Wellington today, the ministers released a stock take showing the steps taken towards the creation of a Single Economic Market between the two countries since an outcome framework was announced in August 2009.

New Zealand and Australia are committed to a Single Economic Market to stimulate business activity, drive job creation and improve the environment for doing business on both sides of the Tasman.

The stock take shows the important progress made in converging accounting and financial reporting standards, aligning regulatory regimes, and coordinating the enforcement of consumer laws.

Moving towards a seamless trans-Tasman economy will deliver benefits to consumers and businesses in both countries.

The ministers shared updates on their respective economies, focusing on domestic developments and how international trends are impacting on economic growth. 

They also discussed how their respective economies are recovering from recent natural disasters: the Canterbury earthquakes and flooding and cyclones in Queensland.

The ministers met Climate Change Minister Nick Smith to discuss climate change policy and the recent announcement of Australia’s Carbon Pricing Mechanism. This included how the two schemes might be integrated, with ministers noting that a senior officials’ working group on the potential linking of the two mechanisms will progress the issue. 

The ministers updated each other on the progress of implementing arrangements between the two countries on trans-Tasman retirement savings portability. Australia will continue to work towards enacting the legislation necessary for the new regime and will work closely with New Zealand officials to finalise the establishment of the scheme.

The talks concluded with a discussion with a small group of business leaders, where they shared views on the future direction the trans-Tasman relationship. 

 

Progress of Single Economic Market Outcomes Proposals announced by the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers on 20 August 2009

Trans Tasman Outcome Proposals

Timeframe Short term: by end-2011 Medium term: by end‑2014

Status

Financial reporting policy

For-Profit entities are able to use a single set of accounting standards and prepare only one set of financial statements.
Trans-Tasman companies have to prepare only one set of financial statements to one set of standards.

Short term

The single Australia-New Zealand reporting standard for publicly accountable for-profit entities was approved by the former New Zealand Accounting Standards Review Board on 27 April and the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) on 28 April. It became operative for an entity’s financial statements that cover accounting periods beginning on or after 1 July 2011.
In respect of non-publicly accountable entities, substantial progress has been made with the introduction of a second tier of reporting in Australia in mid 2010, called the “Reduced Disclosure Regime” (RDR).  This change has brought the reporting requirements for non-publicly accountable entities reporting much closer together.  However, there are some differences between New Zealand’s Differential Reporting framework and the RDR and the two countries’ standards setters will explore the opportunity for full harmonisation in the medium term.  In particular, the New Zealand standards setters will consider whether to adopt an RDR.

Private not-for-profit entities are able to use a single set of accounting standards and prepare only one set of financial statements.

Medium term

Australian and New Zealand standards setters both had policies of sector neutrality before they adopted IFRS.  Both countries are in the process of reviewing their treatments of private not-for-profit entities.
Australia currently sets standards for private not-for-profit entities by modifying the for-profit standards.  New Zealand has yet to decide on its policy. In a discussion document released in September 2009, the Accounting Standards Review Board expressed a tentative view in favour of adopting International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) for public and private not-for-profit entities, and to include modifications that are needed for private entities where public-sector concepts are not fully relevant.

Auditors registered in one country can operate in the other country.

Medium term

New Zealand’s Auditor Regulation Act 2011 received Royal Assent on 19 May 2011.  The legislation paves the way for mutual recognition of auditors between Australia and New Zealand and comes into force on 1 July 2012.  Australian and New Zealand officials are currently working through some operational issues to facilitate these mutual recognition arrangements.

Financial reporting standards bodies in Australia and New Zealand have functional equivalence.

Medium term

New Zealand enacted reforms, which took effect on 1 July 2011, to enhance the structural and governance arrangements of its accounting and auditing standard setters, including by establishing the External Reporting Board.  These reforms have effected functional equivalence.

Financial services policy

Investors and other users of financial products in Australia and New Zealand receive comparable disclosures.

Medium term

Ongoing discussions between Australian and New Zealand officers are being held with the objective of creating similar outcomes in disclosure requirements where possible.
In New Zealand, the disclosure regime is being considered as part of the broader Securities Act review.  A Bill is being drafted for introduction later in 2011.   

Recognised financial advisers in Australia and New Zealand are able to operate across the Tasman without the need for further approvals.

Medium term

New Zealand’s new regulatory regime for financial advisers came fully into force on 1 July 2011.
From that date, the TTMRA effects the mutual recognition of licensed individual financial advisers in both directions across the Tasman.  Officials are examining how to achieve the objective with regard to qualified advisors who are not individually registered.

Trans-Tasman financial institutions and businesses face equivalent anti-money laundering/counter‑terrorist financing (AML/CTF) obligations on both sides of the Tasman

Medium term

The New Zealand Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 was passed on 16 October 2009. The regime comes fully into force on 30 June 2013.   

The New Zealand and Australian corporate Trustee regimes are aligned in respect of financial products.

Medium term

The New Zealand Securities Trustees and Statutory Supervisors Act 2011, passed on 18 April 2011, establishes a licensing regime for trustees of debt issuers and certain collective investment schemes.
In Australia, debenture trustees are not required to be licensed, however this is under review.
After Australia determines whether debenture trustees are to be licensed, officials will examine how to align the corporate trustee regimes in the two jurisdictions.

Insolvency law

A single cross-border insolvency proceeding where an insolvent entity has interests on both sides of the Tasman.

Short term

A cross-border working group (consisting of academics, members of the judiciary and insolvency practitioners from both sides of the Tasman) was established in April 2010. The working group has concluded its initial discussions.  Domestic reforms to the regulation of insolvency practitioners in both Australia and New Zealand have been under consideration and the next step is to develop proposals for consultation.

An insolvent under administration faces equivalent outcomes on both sides of the Tasman and each country recognises those outcomes.

Short term

Competition policy

Firms operating in both markets are faced with the same consequences for the same anti-competitive conduct.

Medium term

The Australian Competition and Consumer Act and the New Zealand Commerce Act have broadly similar penalties for the same anti-competitive conduct, with the exception of cartel conduct.  Australia has criminalised cartel conduct.
The New Zealand Government released a draft exposure bill proposing criminal penalties for cartel behaviour on 16 June 2011.

Competition and consumer law regulators in both jurisdictions are able to share confidential information for enforcement purposes.

Short term

The Australian Competition and Consumer Act enables the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to share information with others, including the New Zealand Commerce Commission (NZCC).
The Commerce Commission (International Cooperation and Fees) Bill 2008, currently before the New Zealand Parliament, will when enacted facilitate cooperation between the ACCC and the NZCC.

Cross membership between the ACCC and New Zealand Commerce Commission at associate member level.

Short term

NZ Commerce Commission chair Dr Mark Berry has been appointed as an associate member of the ACCC. ACCC member Dr Jill Walker has been appointed as an associate member of the NZ Commerce Commission. The appointments were made for three-year terms from 1 December 2010 to 30 November 2013 and were announced on 23 November 2010.

Business reporting

There is a standard set of representations of electronic financial and business performance data that businesses use when reporting to government in both Australia and New Zealand.

Medium term

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Standard Business Reporting was signed between Australia and New Zealand on 7 August 2009. The New Zealand SBR programme has not been pursued at this stage due to fiscal reasons; however the government remains open to exploring options to implement an SBR capability at a future time. 

Trans-Tasman businesses have a single business identifier recognised by government agencies on both sides of the Tasman.

Medium term

Currently, Australia has a unique business identifier (the ABN). However, New Zealand does not have such an identifier.
The New Zealand government is considering the adoption of a single business number.

Personal property securities law

A single trans-Tasman register for personal property securities.

Medium term

This outcome will be progressed once Australia implements its PPS regime which is to commence in October 2011.

Corporations law

Trans-Tasman businesses are required to have to file company information only once to meet the requirements of both governments.

Medium term

Officials from ASIC and New Zealand Companies Office (NZCO) have agreed to provide a single entry point for the registration of companies which are intending to do business on both sides of the Tasman.  They are initially working towards enabling people to search both countries’ corporate registers from one webpage.

Intellectual property law

There is a single trans-Tasman regulatory framework for patent attorneys.

Medium term

IP Australia and the New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development released a discussion paper for a trans-Tasman patent attorney regulatory framework on 7 April 2011.  Feedback received will be incorporated into final policy advice at the end of September 2011.

There is one trans-Tasman trade mark regime.

Medium term

A trans-Tasman trade mark harmonisation trial was held from 1 February 2010 to 6 August 2010 to identify areas where mutual recognition of examination work may be possible. To further align standards quality, registration and examination practice, a trade marks Technical Experts group is being set up.

There is one application process for patents in both jurisdictions.

Medium term

IP Australia and IPONZ announced on 5 July 2011 that they have agreed on a three year implementation plan to improve the way patent applications are processed and examined. The plan covers three stages:
Stage 1 – work sharing will occur in anticipation of New Zealand’s new patents legislation (expected in early 2012);
Stage 2 – single application process by early 2013; and
Stage 3 – single examination by June 2014.

There is a single examination process for patents filed in both jurisdictions

Medium term

Single plant variety right regime.

Medium term

Efforts to bring the plant variety rights systems of both countries into closer alignment have continued.  Activities include identifying opportunities for streamlining procedures between both countries.

Consumer Law

Harmonised or coordinated consumer product labelling regimes.

Short term

In December 2009, the New Zealand Government announced the implementation of a water efficiency labelling scheme that harmonises with the Australian water efficiency labelling scheme. Water efficiency labels are now required on all new products in New Zealand, and on existing products for sale by 1 April 2013.
In 2009, the Gas Technical Regulators Committee (GTRC), comprising Australian and New Zealand representatives, agreed to a common Australian/New Zealand gas appliance approval mark, known as the gas tick.   New Zealand has prescribed the Gas (Safety and Measurement) Regulations 2010 that require use of the common mark on gas appliances from 4 May 2012.

Harmonised or coordinated approaches to enforcement of consumer law.

Short term

The Trade Practices Amendment (Australian Consumer Law) Act (No. 2) 2010 was passed by the Australian Parliament on 24 June 2010.  The Act creates the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) as a law of the Commonwealth.  The ACL commenced on 1 January 2011. 
The ACL sets out a national regime of consumer guarantees for goods and services and remedies for breaches of these.  These guarantees are now aligned with the New Zealand Consumer Guarantees Act 1993.
New Zealand is a party to the MOU for the enforcement of the ACL, through the inclusion of a trans-Tasman clause in the Intergovernmental Agreement for the ACL entered into in 2010.  This will enable information sharing and coordination regarding product safety interventions, scams and fraud awareness, education initiatives and general enforcement cooperation.

Streamline arrangements for mutual recognition of product safety bans and standards, based on the Productivity Commission's Review of Mutual Recognition Schemes.

Short term

The Trade Practices Amendment (Australian Consumer Law) Act (No. 2) 2010, passed by Parliament on 24 June 2010, implements recommendation 6.1 of the Productivity Commission’s Review of Mutual Recognition Schemes report.  The Commission recommended the integration of the product safety regime with the temporary exemption processes under the mutual recognition schemes.

Businesses face equivalent consumer credit requirements and enforcement regimes on both sides of the Tasman.

Medium term

Australia’s focus has been on the implementation of its national consumer credit law which commenced on 1 July 2010, and second phase consumer credit obligations.
As agreed, New Zealand representatives will continue to participate on the FSCRIT forum, to enable closer Trans Tasman input into the work in Phase Two of the Credit reform agenda.

Equivalent approaches to approval and verification of weighing and measuring equipment on both sides of the Tasman.

Short term

This outcome is being progressed following the implementation of Australia’s National Trade Measurement system on 1 July 2010.  

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