Businesses begin as ideas.  For a lot of small business owners, a business is a certain type of creative expression.  It is a combination of hard work, careful planning, and a bit of personal touch as well.  So, if you’re in the process of developing a new business from scratch, it’s understandable that your focus might remain on the bigger picture.  You might be concerned primarily with questions of how to appeal to customers, how to stand out from the crowd, and how to run a fulfilling business.  However, they’re not the only questions that need to be answered.

As every small business owner will no doubt attest, starting a business takes a lot of hard work.  And a lot of that hard work is dedicated to compliance.  Commercial activities are all regulated differently, and it’s not always obvious which regulations apply to you.  One of the more significant challenges your business might face in its fledgling years is getting the right licences and permits.  There are hundreds of different licences and permits relating to a range of commercial activities across the country.  With such a deep pool to dive, how can you be sure your business has all the licences and permits it needs?  Here is where we recommend you start.


Who governs licences, permits, and other similar regulations in Australia?


Before you can begin your search for licences and permits, you need to know which regulators administer them.  And before we go into that, it’s important that you know the role of regulators in a commercial setting.  In a broad sense, regulators are the government bodies that award licences and permits to businesses.  But that’s not all they do.  Regulators are also responsible for ensuring that business comply with the terms of their licences.  Regulators often monitor licence holders and permitholders, and establish some system over which non-compliance can be reported.  In a majority of cases, regulators are constituted under a specific statute, which will outline the scope of their obligations and powers.  So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the three levels of government responsible for the permits and licences you’re likely to require.


Local government bodies


Local governments are concerned mostly with permits, although they do offer a range of commercial licences as well.  There is a variety of permits and licences that local councils can issue, and that variety can differ between different localities.  One of the most consistent examples is an outdoor dining permit.  Small businesses that serve food to outdoor patrons almost invariably require outdoor dining permits, if the outdoor space is public.  These permits are designed to ensure that outdoor dining is orderly, and non-obstructive.  They are also required over the long-term; most permits will specify a date of expiry, at which point you will need to renew the permit so that your business can continue to enjoy its benefits.  However, local government bodies also offer a wide range of short-term permits, which are useful for businesses that are hosting one-off events or promotions.  Of course, that’s just an example of the permits local councils offer and require.  But it does illustrate the general model of council regulation, and the way in which businesses must comply.


State government bodies


State governments have the statutory authority to issue licences, and permits.  They also have a range of regulatory bodies responsible for enforcing licencing and permit regulations.  An obvious example of such a body is the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.  That body oversees state-wide compliance with liquor and gaming laws.  As a part of that, it dispenses liquor and gaming licences, which are required to serve alcohol commercially, or offer gaming facilities in Queensland.


However, the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation is simply one of many regulators in the state.  Queensland requires permits and licences across a whole host of industries.  Those permits and licences don’t just extend to services, either; they also extend to the acquisition of certain materials, the storage of certain products, the sale of certain products, and more.  That means licencing and permit regulations under the state government are something all business owners need to be aware of.


Federal government bodies


Finally, there’s the federal government.  The federal government administers a number of distinct regulatory frameworks, which include licencing, permits, and codes of practice.  Just like local and state governments, the federal government has various regulatory bodies that are tasked with managing compliance nationwide.  The federal government also manages commercial trade that is conducted internationally.  Import and export regulations include licencing and permit requirements, for example, which are overseen by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  Again, that is just one example of the broad reach of commercial regulation in Australia.  To put that in perspective, commercial regulation extends over everything from commercial fishing, to music and the arts.


What are some tools that can help you comply with licensing and permit regulations?


As you can see, approaching licencing and permits from the perspective of a new business presents plenty of challenges.  There are so many licencing and permit requirements, across three different levels of government, that keeping up is challenging for the average small businessowner.  So, where do you start?  Our advice would be to go to the source!  The federal government offers the Australian Business Licence and Information Service.  That service comes with a tool to help you get an overview of the various licences you will require.  Simply follow the prompts, and answer the questions posed to you, and the tool will present you with a list of the licences or permits your business is likely to require.


Commercial compliance can be tricky: contact a lawyer for advice


It’s important to remember that the Australian Business Licence and Information Service is only a preliminary tool.  It is effective in directing your attention to the regulators and regulations you need to know of.  However, it remains at your discretion to determine whether the listed regulations actually apply to you.  It also leaves the application process, which can be complex and even costly.  That’s why it’s vital to seek legal advice.  Legal compliance in a commercial context evolves quickly, and presents many complexities.  It can change from year to year, and the penalties for non-compliance can be severe.  An experienced commercial lawyer will have the expertise to ascertain which licences or permits you require, and how each will affect your rights and obligations once obtained.  Our advice: save unnecessary cost and inconvenience by getting in touch with a lawyer first.



The information provided by Kafrouni Lawyers is intended to provide general information and is not legal advice or a substitute for it. Business people should always consult their own legal advisors to discuss their particular circumstances. Kafrouni Lawyers makes no warranties or representations regarding the information and exclude any liability which may arise as a result of the use of this information. This information is the copyright of Kafrouni Lawyers.

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