For a long time there has been a concern within the Australian community that businesses, community organisations, families and individuals are being burdened with unnecessary regulation. Between 1990 and 2013, the Commonwealth Parliament created an average of 170 new acts each year. The proliferation of new laws has produced too high a compliance burden on the community. Although it is important to note that the Commonwealth Parliament is not the sole rule maker in Australia, clearly the Commonwealth has a major role to play in addressing community concerns and perceptions.
The need for cultural change
As part of a comprehensive response to tackling Australia's economic and fiscal challenges, the Coalition Government committed to a concise plan to reduce the regulatory burden and change the culture towards regulation in government and the community. This plan to boost productivity and reduce regulation aims to strike the best balance between necessary and appropriate regulation that supports markets, innovation and investment in the economy while also strengthening the efforts of the Government to remove costly red tape where it is unwarranted or unnecessary.
The Government's plan entails a number of commitments to directly improve the development, administration and assessment of regulation and to establish processes to reduce the overall red tape burden. These include:
- relocating the Government's deregulation functions to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) so that reducing red tape becomes a high policy priority;
- a clear measurable commitment to reduce the cost to businesses, community organisations, families and individuals of complying with Commonwealth regulations by new decisions totalling at least $1 billion annually;
- setting aside at least two full parliamentary days each year which are dedicated to repealing counterproductive, unnecessary or redundant legislation;
- undertaking a stocktake to assess the overall stock of Commonwealth regulations; establishing Ministerial Advisory Councils (MACs) for each portfolio Minister to consult on deregulation;
- providing incentives to motivate the Australian Public Service (APS) to cut red tape, such as linking remuneration of senior executive service (SES) public servants to quantified and proven reductions in regulations;
- improving Australian Government regulatory gate keeping requirements, including the introduction and compliance with a requirement that all submissions to Cabinet must be accompanied by a Regulation Impact statement (RIs);
- establishing deregulation as a standing item on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agenda; and
- clarifying the Government's expectations for each regulator and establishing a Regulator Performance Framework to assess and audit the performance of individual regulators.
In addition to these overarching changes, the Government also made a number of specific, substantive commitments to reduce regulation in particular areas. These have included:
- abolishing the Carbon Tax to ease the administrative burden of taxation compliance for Australian business and households while continuing to reduce growth in emissions;
- repealing the Minerals Resource Rent Tax to remove the significant administrative and compliance burden on mining companies, including those not even liable for the tax;
- reducing the red tape burden on business by removing the requirement for employers to be the paymaster in the Paid Parental Leave scheme and instead make payments through the Department of Human services;
- reduce the compliance costs for small business financial advisers and consumers who access financial advice; streamlining grant application processes; and
- establishing a One-stop shop for environmental approvals.
Since coming to office, the Government has also committed to the general principle that Australia should adopt international standards and risk assessments to reduce the need for duplicative Australian approvals when products or services have already been approved by trusted overseas regulators. The changes, which were announced as part of the Government's Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda in October 2014, are aimed at removing duplication and reducing delay for Australian businesses and consumers. To monitor progress in meeting its red tape objectives, the Government pledged to detail its progress in an annual report on deregulation to the Parliament. This report provides an overview of the Government's progress against these commitments in 2014.4