Australian company search
You can search basic ASIC company records online for free. Go to the ASIC website at asic.gov.au to search basic details including company names, ACNs (Australian Company Numbers), current directors, and a listing of documents lodged with ASIC for the company.
If you want to get copies of documents lodged with ASIC, such as charges over the company's assets or shareholder details, then you will need to use an authorised agent. Agents will provide copies of documents for a fee (which they have to charge because ASIC charges them a fee). Agents can also do company searches and business name searches for you.
Searching details of Australian listed companies
Information on publicly listed companies is easier to obtain. The ASX website (asx.com.au) has downloadable company announcements for each listed company which can be searched and accessed online for free for personal use. This is a simple way to obtain annual reports, company announcements, and other financial information.
Available name checker for a new company
Want to set up a new company, but not sure if the name you want is available?
The ASIC website has a great free tool which instantly tells you if your chosen name can be registered for your new company. The tool scans existing Australian companies, existing registered business names, and also checks it against the list of banned company names (for example, anything with "bank" in it unless the company is licensed to operate as a bank). The name checker tool is available here.