Launch of the Annual Red Tape Reduction Report 2015

Date: Wednesday 16 March 2016

Thank you for that introduction.

The Regulatory Reform Division from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is happy to host today’s event.

I also want to particularly thank the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and many other business groups for being in attendance today.

Joining us here this morning are representatives of the Canberra Business Chamber, the Pharmacy Guild, Master Builders Australia, the Australian Dental Industry Association, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Screen Producers Australia, the Australian Council of Co-Operatives and Mutuals, the National Electrical and Communications Association, Engineering Australia, the Minerals Council, and the Australasian Railway Association.

I mention these groups as a demonstration of how important regulatory reform is to a broad spectrum of business and organisations across the country.

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the launch of the 2015 Annual Red Tape Reduction Report – to showcase what our Government is achieving in this important policy area.

The Annual Report was tabled in Parliament yesterday.

I invite you to take a copy with you. 

As the report outlines, as part of the Government’s red tape objective, every Commonwealth portfolio has continued to make progress to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses, community organisations, individuals and families.

In the short time I have, I will summarise the substantial progress made in regulatory reform up to 2015.

First, the Coalition came to office in 2013 with a public commitment to reduce regulatory costs by $3 billion dollars over three years.

We have exceeded our target. In just over two years, we have made decisions to cut regulatory costs by $4.8 billion.

This is the result of hard work – measure by measure, portfolio by portfolio – delivering over 460 individual decisions during last year alone. 

Cast your minds back to what the regulatory landscape looked like in late 2013.

Today, as a result of sustained efforts across the whole of government, in just over two years we have introduced legislation to repeal almost 3,600 Acts.

If we were to do nothing else – I will come back to our higher ambitions shortly – the Government has already taken 965 decisions since late 2013 to reduce the time and costs devoted by the community to complying with Commonwealth regulations by an ongoing $4.8 billion per year.

That’s $4.8 billion this year, $4.8 billion the next, and so on.  

Of course, some of these changes require Parliamentary support to be implemented. 

Nonetheless, I am happy to tell you that we have implemented over 80 per cent of the net savings measures we have announced.

They include: repealing the Carbon Tax, reforming the Renewable Energy Target, reforming Australian Post, streamlining income tax returns using myTax, and enhancing ATO online services for individuals and sole traders.

Second, we are changing the culture of government when it comes to regulation.

My own career has included a stint as a Treasury official and in the NSW Cabinet office and in my experience, public servants are keen to deliver sound policy outcomes.

They are assisted in doing so if there is clear goal setting by Governments.

To this end, our public target for red tape reduction has been a strong and useful organising principle for the public service, during our first term of government.

In order to meet our public target, each portfolio has established a Regulatory Reform Unit.

A methodology for measuring regulatory savings and costs has been agreed.

And a baseline assessment of the rules and regulations we impose and the costs of Commonwealth regulation, has also been conducted.

The point is, you cannot implement this level of organisational endeavour in all portfolios without beginning to change the culture of the public service, and indeed of Ministers as they make decisions.

This organisational effort is being supplemented by formal training opportunities for building policy skills.

In December, I was pleased to launch the Commonwealth’s own Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, on regulatory impact analysis.

The MOOC is designed to improve public servants’ ability to undertake rigorous regulatory impact analysis and to develop the skills necessary to prepare best practice regulation.

This significant investment is critical.

Third, I am sure that every business representative here today will have a story about a regulator. 

Not all of them kind, I’d guess.

As a former advocate for business to government, I recognise that it is not just the design of regulation that matters, but also the way it is administered on the ground.

As a Government we are working hard to improve regulator capacity. 

During 2015, over 80 Australian Government regulators became subject to a formal Regulator Performance Framework – which sets out six Key Performance Indicators against which they are to be assessed annually.

Again, as a Government we are keen to set out clear expectations.

The Regulator Performance Framework does this.

We are also supporting regulators through a peer-led group which meets twice a year – a Regulator Community of Practice.

Fourth, rigorous regulatory impact analysis is another key component of the Government’s approach.

Regulation Impact Statements – or RISs – are used to inform decision makers about the regulatory implications of a proposal.

A RIS provides a detailed appraisal of a policy problem, whether government intervention can be justified and the potential solutions to assess whether a regulation is likely to achieve the desired policy objectives.

It is developed through consultation and takes into account potential implementation issues. 

Greater transparency and consideration of alternative policy options in RISs therefore form a key part of this Government’s efforts to slow the flow of new, avoidable regulations.

During 2015, there were 38 finalised and published Australian Government RISs, all of which were compliant with our requirements for rigorous analysis – as independently determined by the Office of Best Practice Regulation.

I am pleased that for the second year since we came to Government, there was 100 per cent compliance by portfolios with the Government’s RIS requirements.

Fifth, today’s theme is not about ‘mission accomplished’.

The Turnbull Government is very focussed on supporting innovation and growth.

Regulatory reform has a key role to play in this.

The fact that we have well exceeded our $3 billion red tape reduction target in just over two years has provided an early opportunity to evaluate this initial success, and consider steps to further strengthen the Regulatory Reform Agenda.

We will keep up the focus on removing red tape. 

There is plenty more to cut, but looking ahead, there is scope to reposition how we target red tape reduction alongside regulatory reforms with wider benefits.

Particularly in terms of productivity and economic growth, where red tape savings may be less prominent. 

In November, I announced to Parliament that the Government will integrate red tape reduction targets more closely with regulatory reforms that encourage innovation and competition.

A strengthened Regulatory Reform Agenda will commence in July of this year. 

The Government intends that this will support flexibility in the economy and encourage productivity and growth to the greatest extent possible.

Sixth, in our federation, it is frequently the case that there is only so much any one jurisdiction, including the Australian Government, can do on its own to generate significant productivity gains through regulatory reform.

A renewed COAG commitment to deliver a stronger more productive and innovative Australian economy provides an opportunity to reboot Australian Government engagement with the States and Territories on regulatory reform.

Since I have taken over responsibility for regulatory policy, I have been particularly keen to explore these issues with the States and Territories.

Given that States and Territories have responsibility for many regulations that concern business, we – both the Government and you as key stakeholders – need to continue to engage with them on these issues.

Thus, the Federation is a critical part of the Turnbull Government focus on regulatory reform.

I suspect you will hear more about this Commonwealth State Agenda as we head into this year’s first COAG meeting in the next few weeks.

Lastly, and I don’t want to spend much time on this point.  However, I simply want to note that Australia is attracting positive interest from other countries for our policy work, particularly those in our region.

I would like to acknowledge the Ambassador from Georgia who has kindly joined us today.

In 2015, officials from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet received delegations from Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam who were keen to share information on regulatory reform.

And in June of this year, the Regulatory Policy Committee of the OECD will be holding a meeting on Measuring Regulatory Performance in Sydney.

This international interest in what our Government is doing is heartening, and I thought it worth mentioning this to you in passing.

In closing, I want to thank you again for attending this launch of the Annual Red Tape Reduction Report 2015.

It is a record of what we have done.  But there is more to do.

I look forward to working with all of you to get as much done as possible.

Thank you.