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ADJOURNMENT: Deregulation

20 March 2014


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (16:53): Yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister informed the House of a historic moment for the Australian Parliament: the introduction of legislation to repeal more than 10,000 acts and regulations. This represents the single largest bulk repeal in the history of the Commonwealth. We will cut red and green tape from nearly every portfolio. This will slash the compliance bill for the business and not-for-profit sectors by more than $700 million.

Those sectors form a foundation of our economic strength. The broader positive economic impact of these changes will be significantly larger. The Productivity Commission estimates $12 billion can be saved by eliminating red tape. Deregulation has the potential to ease the burden on almost every sector of our economy, from aged care to agriculture, from schools to small businesses, and from visas to veterans. Overregulation stifles investment and innovation, and impedes the creation of thousands of new jobs. During the six long years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor government an additional 21,000 regulations were introduced. This has contributed to our current malaise, a situation where the World Economic Forum judged our great nation 128th out of the 148 countries surveyed for their burden of government regulation.

What do these changes mean to the people in my electorate of Bennelong? Ours is an electorate that boasts the innovation capital of Australia, employing thousands of local professionals, and one of our top universities. It has public and private hospitals and many hundreds of small businesses, which are the lifeblood of a local economy. In this new deregulated world universities will no longer be required each year to submit extensive and duplicated survey data on the size, use, management and maintenance of their lecture theatres, laboratories, offices and other facilities. Aged care providers, disability employment service providers and charities—like Alzheimer’s Australia; Meningococcal Australia; and Achieve Australia, who I am proud to say I serve as patron of—will no longer be subjected to as much duplication with their paperwork, allowing them to focus on their core functions.

National businesses will be allowed to operate under one workers compensation scheme right around our nation, rather than having to operate in up to eight. Importers of veterinary medicines, of which we have several in Bennelong, will no longer need to re-register well established products over and over when those products have not been changed. Employers and small businesses will no longer be required to administer the Paid Parental Leave scheme. Instead, the paperwork will be centrally controlled by the government’s family assistance office. The same will be true of superannuation payments. The administrative burden on employers will be lifted, with payments now remitted through the ATO.

Over the past few years I have developed my own form of direct action to assist these small businesses, called the Bennelong Village Business Initiative. This successful program aims to help communities throughout the Bennelong electorate to recognise the social benefit, convenience and genuine value of shopping locally. Through letterbox drops we encourage local residents to shop local, and to ask them to imagine their suburb without a vibrant local shopping village. We advertise the village of the month at no cost to businesses, we coordinate reduced advertising rates by bringing individual businesses together into a local village collective, and we organise community dinner events at local restaurants.

The next step to this initiative is an interactive social media project offering an online presence to retailers, and discounts to the public, as BVB members. I often visit these businesses and update them on activities in Canberra. I will be delighted to go back to them now and say to them that the coalition has heard their complaint that red tape is killing them, and we are honouring our election commitment to fix the mess that Labor left behind. Their confidence should grow as ‘repeal day’ will go a long way to reverse the strangulation on small business caused by the 21,000 regulations left as a legacy of the Labor years.

Despite all this work, I note that there is a long way to go. These changes form just the start of a cultural shift. We need to remove duplication between different levels of government and between different agencies of government, to streamline onerous and costly reporting requirements, and to take a common-sense approach to regulation. I will be inviting Bennelong small businesses to participate in this important process.

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