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Treasury Legislation Amendment (Repeal Day) Bill 2014

  3 December 2014


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (11:11): I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Repeal Day) Bill, which will implement a number of refinements to simplify the approval requirements when seeking the Treasurer’s approval of a change in ownership of a financial sector company, while also clarifying employer payslip requirements.

This bill forms part of the broader suite of repeal day legislationthat has been introduced into the House to honour the coalition government’s election commitment to cut $1 billion in red and green tape each year.I therefore wish to take this opportunity to speak on this broader repeal day topic, and the great achievements of the coalition during our short period in government.

Over the previous six years under Labor, we witnessed a regular pattern of a government overpromising and underdelivering. Who could forget the former Treasurer’s 2012 budget night announcement:

The four years of surpluses I announce tonight are a powerful endorsement … This budget delivers a surplus this coming year, on time, as promised, and surpluses each year after that, strengthening over time.

Of course, what we saw was six consecutive years of an ever-growing budget deficit.

In contrast, since the 2013 election, the coalition government has more than doubled our election target of red tape reduction, announcing over 400 measures across the whole of government and a net reduction of over $2.1 billion in compliance costs.

As part of the 2014 Spring Repeal Day on 29 October, the government continued this work by removing nearly 1,000 pieces and over 7,200 pages of legislation and regulation. This continues the work of the first repeal day in March, where the government removed over 10,000 pieces and 50,000 pages of legislation and regulation and over $700 million of compliance costs.

This government’s policy efforts will result in more efficient government and more productive business and not-for-profit sectors. This will improve our nation’s competitiveness, helping to create more jobs while lowering household costs.

In contrast, Labor introduced more than 21,000 additional regulations, stifling investment and job creation, despite Kevin Rudd’s promise of a ‘one regulation in, one regulation out’ policy and the then small business minister, Craig Emerson, saying in 2008 that Labor would ‘take a giant pair of scissors to the red tape that is strangling small business.’

This legislation before us today isanother example that bad regulation and too much regulation hurts productivity, deters investment and innovation and costs jobs.

Following six years of hard Labor government, our great country ranks 124th out of 148 countries for burden of government regulation in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index. This year we improved four spots on last year, and we are still behind Colombia and Spain and just in front of Iran—hardly a ranking we should be proud of. This is our nation’s shame. Over-regulation directly affects our efficiency. The Productivity Commission has estimated that regulation compliance costs could amount to as much as four per cent of Australia’s GDP.

Under Labor, there were nearly 100 examples of non-compliant and prime ministerial exempt regulatory impact statements. These included some of Labor’s most significant legislative changes such as the mining tax, the NBN, the future of financial advice laws, and changes to the Fair Work Act. These measures all escaped detailed regulatory impact scrutiny following exemptions granted by prime ministers Rudd and Gillard. The Borthwick-Milliner review, commissioned by Labor and reporting last year, found a widespread lack of acceptance of and commitment to the regulatory impact assessment process by ministers and agencies. This is not the way that strong effective and honest government operates.

In contrast, the Abbott government has introduced a comprehensive form of reform agenda. Our deregulation measures include: (1) minimising and simplifying interaction with government; (2) reducing regulatory obligations and reporting; (3) fuelling economic growth; and (4) common sense reforms. We are committed to a new approach where we must first ask what is the purpose, cost and impact on productivity of proposed initiatives before regulating. Only after these questions are answered, and only when it is absolutely necessary with no sensible alternatives available, should government proceed to regulate.

We have already implemented several substantial amendments to the regulatory process including: (a) requiring cabinet submissions proposing legislative changes with a significant regulatory impact to be subject to the regulatory impact assessment process, governed by the new government guide to regulation; (b) establishing designated deregulation units within ministers’ departments and finalising ministerial advisory committees to advise on deregulation priorities and opportunities for cutting regulation; (c) where appropriate, linking the remuneration of senior members of the public service to their performance in reducing red and green tape; (d) the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has taken over responsibility for deregulation and the Office of Best Practice Regulation, previously located in the Department of Finance; (e) the Productivity Commission has prepared a framework for auditing the performance of regulators; (f) deregulation will be a standing item on the COAG agenda to enable the federal and state governments to cut duplication and over regulation. In addition, the government will also: (a) tackle the volume of regulation, which is clearly already too high; (b) work to eliminate the extensive duplication and regulatory overlap that exists between different layers of government, particularly between federal and state regulation; (c) improve the quality of consultation between government and those to be affected by any new regulations.

As I said earlier, this legislation forms part of this government’s broader repeal day reform agenda. Our policies have received a range of third party endorsements that I would like to share with the House. Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, said:

Finally, we’ve reached a turning point in dealing with the high costs and inefficiencies faced by business and consumers every day.

Innes Willox, Chief Executive of Australian Industry Group, said:

… Australian Industry Group is right behind the Commonwealth Government’s commitment to reduce regulatory burdens by $1 billion per year each year over the term of the parliament.

Gail Kelly, CEO of Westpac said:

The government is showing that Australia is open for business, there is deregulation and a reduction of red tape is under way.

Peter Verwer, former Chief Executive of the Property Council Australia said:

Slashing red tape will unshackle industry from unnecessary bureaucracy and duplicative reporting.

John Osborn, Chief Operating Officer of ACCI, said:

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australia’s largest and most representative business organisation, strongly supports the government’s initiative to cut red-tape and undertake legislative repeal days.

Tony Nicholson, Executive Director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, has said: ‘We warmly welcome the government’s red tape reduction agenda. Streamlining our reporting and compliance requirements makes a real difference as it frees up resources to be directed towards helping disadvantaged young families.’ The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association and the Minerals Council of Australia said:

Australia’s resources sector welcomes the Federal Government’s efforts to curb the high costs and inefficiencies associated with project development in Australia and hopes the “Repeal Day” legislation marks the start of a concerted effort to boost the sector’s global competitiveness.

Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia, has said: ‘We commend the government for walking the talk on deregulation and allowing universities to get on with the business of teaching, scholarship and research.’ Finally, Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of Australian Retailers Association, declared:

Dedicating Parliamentary sitting days to repealing regulation is certainly a step in the right direction and highlights the Coalitions’ commitment of cutting $1 billion in red tape each year to benefit retailers …

The repeal day is another promise kept. It is another promise delivered, along with the cutting of the carbon tax, the mineral tax and the incredible work of Andrew Robb in attaining free trade agreements.