Global Business GuideAustralia

From Global Connections

This is one of a series of Global Business Guides designed for businesses wishing to expand into another country/territory. This Global Business Guide was produced in January 2016. The materials contained in this document provide a snapshot at that time and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.


Australia remained in the top 10 global destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) for the fourth consecutive year, according to the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2015. FDI inflows amounted to USD51,854 billion in 2014.

Australia ranked 13th in the World Bank's 2016 Doing Business rankings, down from 12th in the year prior. Australia's strengths were in Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Credit and Enforcing Contracts, where the country ranked top five in the world across all three topics. The report also placed Australia in the top three economies for the quality of its judicial processes.

Key facts about starting a business in Australia:

  • It takes three procedures and approximately 2.5 days to start a new business in Australia; this process is detailed in the Doing Business in chapter
  • Paying taxes takes businesses 105 hours a year on average; tax administration requirements are outlined in the Tax chapter
  • The processing time for skilled migration visas ranges from three to 18 months; employment regulations are discussed in detail in the Labour chapter
  • Businesses must prepare statutory financial statements in accordance with the Australian Accounting Standards and Interpretations; further details can be found in the Audit chapter
  • Companies that wish to list securities on the ASX must, amongst other conditions, have a minimum of 300 investors; this is discussed further in the Finance chapter

Australia's attractiveness as a business destination can be attributed to a number of factors, including its consistent economic growth, highly skilled workforce and connections to Asia. Nevertheless, in order to make an informed decision, it is critical to understand the nuances of any local regime. The manner in which people conduct business in Australia may differ from the home countries of investors. Furthermore, variations on these distinctions may exist depending on the region and industry in which a company operates.

English is the primary language used in Australia and therefore the lingua franca of business. Punctuality is valued in Australia. Business attire is typically conservative.

A handshake is the typical business greeting. While it is not as common as other countries, business cards may be exchanged after initial introductions. Gift giving is not part of Australia business etiquette.

Those looking to establish a business in Australia may look to other countries in the region for alternative options. However, Australia can be differentiated on the following factors:

  • Australia is the 12th largest economy in the world; it has had 25 years of uninterrupted annual growth
  • The World Bank scored the quality of judicial processes in Australia 15.5 out of 18; Australia's legal regime is documented in the Legal chapter
  • For seven years in a row, Australia has been ranked in the global top five on the Index of Economic Freedom
  • Australia has longstanding trade, investment and cultural ties with the Asia-Pacific region
  • Almost 40 per cent of Australia's workforce holds a tertiary qualification
  • Australia has seven airports offering international flights (Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney); further details can be found in the Infrastructure chapter
  • Australia has strong links with the Asia Pacific Region, ten of the country's top 12 goods and services export markets were in the Asian region; trade policy is discussed further in the Trade chapter

Despite its historical resilience, Australia's economic growth has slowed amidst the continued slowdown in China and falls in commodity prices. As Australia's largest trade partner, the slowdown in China has adversely affected Australia's export revenues, particularly from its mining industry. Furthermore, a recent rise in the strength of the Australian dollar has threatened to reduce the competitive advantage that Australian exporters have gained from a weaker currency.

This guide has been developed to provide businesses with an overview of Australia, its legal regime, start-up and market entry considerations, tax and customs requirements and a general summary of the factors that may affect the decision to do business in Australia. However, the information contained in this document is generic in nature and you should not act or rely on it without obtaining specific professional advice.

Please note that the Global Business Guides may only be available in English.

Useful Links

1 Australian Business Register
2 Australian Taxation Office
3 Department of Immigration and Border Protection
4 IP Australia
5 Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
6 Australian Trade Commission
7 Department of Employment



1 Unctad
2 Doing Business in Australia
3 Visa Processing Time
4 Economy and growth
5 Tertiary Qualification
6 Asia trade links


Download Global Business Guide - Australia (896KB, PDF)


This document is issued by HSBC Bank Australia ABN 48 006 434 162 AFSL 232595  (the Bank). This guide is a joint project with Grant Thornton. It is not intended as an offer or solicitation for business to anyone in any jurisdiction. It is not intended for distribution to anyone located in or resident in jurisdictions which restrict the distribution of this document. It shall not be copied, reproduced, transmitted or further distributed by any recipient. The information contained in this document is of a general nature only. It is not meant to be comprehensive and does not constitute financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this document without obtaining specific professional advice. Whilst every care has been taken in preparing this document, the Bank and Grant Thornton makes no guarantee, representation or warranty (express or implied) as to its accuracy or completeness, and under no circumstances will the Bank or Grant Thornton be liable for any loss caused by reliance on any opinion or statement made in this document. Except as specifically indicated, the expressions of opinion are those of the Bank and are subject to change without notice. The materials contained in this document were assembled in January 2016 and were based on the law enforceable and information available at that time.

Grant Thornton refers to the brand under which the Grant Thornton member firms provide assurance, tax and advisory services to their clients and/or refers to one or more member firms, as the context requires. Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL) and its member firms are not a worldwide partnership. GTIL and each member firm is a separate legal entity. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL does not provide services to clients. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions. This publication has been prepared only as a guide. No responsibility can be accepted by GTIL for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication.

HSBC retains all responsibility for the translation of the content of this guide. In the event of any discrepancy or inconsistency between the English and translated versions of this Guide, the English version shall apply and prevail.

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