Federal Reforms Turn the Tide on Red Tape

Major reforms to red tape announced today by the federal government potentially signalled the start of a reversal of Australia’s regulatory blow-out.

However, the BCA warned the Commonwealth’s attempts to rein in regulation would be undermined if states and territories failed to follow Canberra’s lead and adopt their own major red tape reform programs.

In its comprehensive audit of government regulation-making released last year, the BCA found the volume of regulation was growing three times faster than Australia’s economic growth rate, and that federal and state governments were adding more than 30,000 pages of new laws and regulations a year.

As a result, business and the community were being burdened by excessive red tape costs, with regulation often overlapping, poorly thought through and not subject to any meaningful cost impact review.

BCA President, Mr Michael Chaney, said the federal government’s announcement today represented a commitment to real red tape reform because it was the first time the underlying causes of the problem were being acknowledged and addressed.

The BCA also welcomed the government’s announcement that it would immediately address a number of individual areas of over-regulation which had plagued business and consumers.

“The big problem with regulation-making in Australia is that it is un-coordinated, with governments having few processes in place to prevent a ‘regulate first, ask questions later’ mindset.

“The result is a massive increase in regulation in recent years, duplication and contradictions between rules and regulations between Governments, with the resulting cost and complexity being borne by business and the community.

As the BCA argued, the problem can only be fixed if governments reform the way they conceive, develop and implement regulation.

Mr Chaney said a national commitment to red tape reform – agreed by COAG in February – now needed to be put into practice by all jurisdictions.

“The federal government has set the standard by committing to fixing the underlying causes of over-regulation. While the detail won’t be known until July, the government’s announcement today shows it is moving in the right direction. We are also pleased that the government will be addressing the role of regulators to reduce the regulatory burden.

Initiatives announced today by the government, including the push for a nationally consistent OH&S system, greater certainty around the roles of APRA and ASIC, web-based annual reporting and the introduction of the Business Cost Calculator, are particularly welcomed by the BCA.

“The reforms announced by the federal government must now be mirrored by the states.

While some states have implemented their own red tape reform initiatives, a genuinely unified approach is required to prevent overlap and duplication across all levels of government.

“Having one government reform its regulation processes and not the others will inevitably mean we go back to square one.”

The BCA intends to develop a red tape scorecard to measure and assess how the Commonwealth reforms are progressing.

The scorecard will also monitor and assess how the states respond to red tape reform.