Emergency payments the first Commonwealth service to move to the NPP

Welfare payments and ATO payment requests are likely next, Australia's Reserve Bank has revealed.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The federal government is keen to move some of its payment capabilities to Australia's New Payments Platform (NPP), but according to Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Assistant Governor Lindsay Boulton, the Commonwealth wants the platform's capabilities proven out by industry first.

The NPP went live in February, allowing for the transfer of money from one person to another in near real-time, using an email address or phone number -- a PayID -- rather than the traditional BSB or account number process.

One feature of the NPP that the government has its eye on in particular is the ability to send data with the payment, with capacity for up to 280 characters of information to be sent with the near-instant transaction.

Speaking at Sibos in Sydney on Tuesday, Boulton revealed the government's plans to firstly send emergency payments via the NPP, before it moves to payments that require the document feature or Request to Pay function.

"The government has been very interested in using NPP from the start ... particularly interested for a number of reasons, emergency payments, that's probably -- that will be -- the first cab off the rank as far as the government's concerned," he said.

Emergency payments, Boulton explained, are not just for natural disasters. The federal government makes about 2,000 emergency payments across the country daily, from a dedicated pool of funds that are paid to people in distressed circumstances, such as victims of domestic violence.

"[They're] out of their homes with no access to funds, so the government can actually get payments to them almost instantly when these people are actually standing at the counter or are on the phone -- so a significant benefit from that point of view," he continued. "The Reserve Bank is already underway with a program to migrate those payments from an existing RTGS system across to NPP."

According to Boulton, the government also has a particular interest in some of the services that aren't yet available through NPP, but are coming down the pipeline.

"So that's Request to Pay -- the ATO is particularly interested in Request to Pay -- but combining that with payment documents, so obviously whenever there is a tax payment there's documentation that goes with it, there's tax assessments, there's information that has to flow back to the taxation office," Boulton said.

The government is also eyeing the NPP for welfare payment delivery.

"The Department of Human Services which administers many of those welfare payments often has to send documentation along with the payment -- such as for change of assessment, change of address, change of circumstance -- information also has to flow back to government," he continued.

See also: Welfare payments in Australia could be delivered over blockchain

"So they're very interested from the point of view of those two services, and I think those two services are also ones which businesses generally, not just the government, generally would get significant advantage from."

Although the NPP has been live for eight months, and has been in the works for years prior, Boutlon highlighted the government is hesitant to move services to the platform without it being firstly tested by industry.

"Government typically doesn't have a lot of resources available to it so it tends not to want to move, to take part of schemes like New Payments Platform, until it can see the whites of its eyes, until it knows that it's there almost ready to go and being used," he said. "And then they're keen to actually make sure they do an integration with their own systems to be able to use it."

According to Boulton, the government is conscious of not wasting time, mainly because resources are strained.

"I think we're at that point now where the system is live, it's got enough credibility, and the government is already moving to take advantage of that," he concluded.


What is Australia's New Payments Platform?

The New Payments Platform officially launched on Tuesday, and apart from boasting near real-time funds transfer, it also promises room for innovation in Australia's financial services sector.

Budget 2018: APS to use New Payments Platform

The Department of Finance has been given AU$11 million in funding to boost productivity across the APS, including by modernising Commonwealth cash management via use of the NPP.

SWIFT's instant cross-border gpi payments test touted as a success

The successful trial of instant cross-border payments used Australia's New Payments Platform.

If you can track a pizza, why can't you track a payment?

Wells Fargo, HSBC, and the Commonwealth Bank all agree consumers are looking for the same experience from their bank as they get from other parts of their life.

Editorial standards