Red Tape Reform – Today in the Australian Parliament

IMG_0587Amidst the turmoil this week’s political events, which saw Malcolm Turnbull ousting Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, the Australian Parliament is discussing the Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2015) Bill 2015. This Bill is a part of the Australian Government’s drive for red tape reform. The list of amendments contained in this Bill are presented HERE.

In presenting this legislation, Christian Porter MP claimed that “the bulk repeal of regulations introduced by the Attorney-General, will repeal over 10,000 legislative instruments and over 1,800 acts of parliament”. 

Regulation, said Porter, “should only remain in force for as long as necessary. It should be easily accessible and continue to deliver on policy outcomes. This is not about removing protections. This is, rather, the application of common sense.”

The Government’s Guide to Regulation identifies ten principles for policy makers:

  • Regulation should not be the default option for policy makers: the policy option offering the greatest net benefit should always be the recommended option.
  • Regulation should be imposed only when it can be shown to offer an overall net benefit.
  • The cost burden of new regulation must be fully offset by reductions in existing regulatory burden.
  • Every substantive regulatory policy change must be the subject of a Regulation Impact Statement.
  • Policy makers should consult in a genuine and timely way with affected businesses, community organisations and individuals.
  • Policy makers must consult with each other to avoid creating cumulative or overlapping regulatory burdens.
  • The information upon which policy makers base their decisions must be published at the earliest opportunity.
  • Regulators must implement regulation with common sense, empathy and respect.
  • All regulation must be periodically reviewed to test its continuing relevance.
  • Policy makers must work closely with their portfolio Deregulation Units throughout the policy making process.

The Government has also produced a Regulatory Burden Measure for calculating the compliance costs of regulatory proposals on business, individuals and community organisations using an activity-based costing methodology.

Bernard Keane’s comments on the Crikey website on 20 March 2014 argues that these repeal programs are “less about unclogging the narrowed arteries of the Australian economy and allowing it to breathe the air that, erm, free economies breathe and more about the theatre of scrapping dead letters and fiddling with trivia”.

Scrapping “dead letters” – old, unused and irrelevant – regulation is, of course, an important first step in any deregulatory process. While these reforms can’t claim many major savings or benefits – simply because they are old, unused and irrelevant – they present a useful start. Despite this, the Government claims that in fact some A$2,449 million has been saved through these measures since September 2013.

The challenge in this work is to balance the desire to remove unused and poor regulation with the need to re-regulate and improve the quality and efficiency of regulation. While “cutting red tape” has strong political appeal in some quarters, the broader, more significant, objective is to ensure laws and regulations respond to our economic, social and environmental demands and operate as effectively and efficiently as possible.