Coalition puts good policies ahead of more paperwork
THE Abbott government’s economically crucial deregulation agenda, which came together in the federal parliament’s first repeal day last month, has so far been extremely successful.
As well as the Prime Minister, the key driver of the Coalition’s deregulation strategy, which will cut $1 billion in red and green tape each year, is Tony Abbott’s hardworking parliamentary secretary, Josh Frydenberg, who soon may be elevated to the ministry.
Federal Labor has been left flat-footed, realising on the one hand that deregulation is highly popular with business and the population at large, while on the other knowing that in less than six years the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments introduced more than 21,000 additional regulations. This is despite Kevin Rudd’s claim in 2007 that “the truth is business regulation is now right out of control. The quantity and complexity of business regulation today is eating away at the entrepreneurial spirit of Australian business.
But despite having been aware of this crucial problem, federal Labor did absolutely nothing to fix it.
Frydenberg points out that these unnecessary regulations also included the carbon tax “with its 18 separate acts and 1100 pages of legislation, and the mining tax with 11 separate acts and 525 pages of legislation. The reality is that repealing the carbon tax and the mining tax would not only reduce cost-of-living pressures and help create many more jobs, it would also save nearly $100 million in compliance costs.
As a result of repeal day more than 10,000 pieces and 50,000 pages of legislation and regulation have been removed. This means red and green tape is being slashed in nearly every federal government portfolio, saving more than $700m in compliance costs for business and the not-for-profit sector.
The unpalatable reality for federal Labor is that when it comes to deregulation and its positive effects on economic growth it is on a hiding to nothing. This is especially the case given the March 26 initiative is but the first of a commitment by the federal Coalition to slash regulations. To facilitate this, two parliamentary sitting days will be designated as repeal days each year, the next most likely to be held in September or October.
The Abbott-Frydenberg deregulation campaign involves removing duplication between different levels and agencies of government, as well as streamlining unnecessarily onerous and costly reporting requirements.
As Abbott explained, “Cutting red and green tape is a sign that the Coalition wants Australians, individually and in the community, to have more control over their own lives. From now on, jobs agencies will no longer be required to keep paper records of every applicant which, in one agency alone, occupied 336 filing cabinets. Moreover national businesses will be allowed to operate under one workers compensation scheme throughout the nation, rather than have to operate in up to eight.
As a result of the first repeal day, for example, universities will no longer have to submit detailed capital asset management surveys and include relatively useless information about how, when and where they use their tutorial rooms and lecture halls.
And why should every Australian university be required to report more than 50 sets of data to the commonwealth Department of Education and a further 50 to other government entities?
The shameful reality is that, while in four years Australia has slipped six places to 21st on the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness ranking, our ranking on the burden of government regulation is 128th in the world — between Romania and Angola.
That is why all commonwealth government portfolios now have a dedicated deregulation unit, formed from existing staff. This is in part because, in the present situation, it is quite often more helpful to repeal old laws than to pass new ones. Hence the PM is determined to put processes in place that will see the government deregulate, as opposed to re-regulate, the economy.
This much-needed change of governmental approach will supercharge innovation and investment, and create thousands of new jobs.
As Frydenberg says, under the government’s new approach the following questions need to be asked about any proposed regulations: “What is their purpose? Their cost? Their impact on new entrants? And their effectiveness in managing risk? Only then, when it is absolutely necessary, with no sensible alternatives available, should we proceed to regulate.
As long ago as 1946, the Liberal Party under Robert Menzies said what was needed in postwar Australia was “less forms and more reforms.
To the great benefit of Australian families, businesses and community organisations, the govÃ‚Âernment is heeding MenziesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ prescient words.
The achievement of sustained deregulation is crucial to national prosperity. Abbott and Frydenberg can be proud of being part of something so beneficial to the business of Australia.
Ross Fitzgerald is emeritus professor of history and politics at Griffith University and author of ‘My Name is Ross: An Alcoholic’s Journey’.
The Weekend Australian, April 19-20, 2014, INQUIRER p 16