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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6590


Mr RAGUSE (2:42 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. Minister, what progress is the government making in relieving the regulatory burden on business?


Mr TANNER (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —I thank the member for Forde for his question. The government is committed to delivering long-term sustainable growth for the Australian economy. As part of that commitment, there are a number of specific strategies that are being pursued. These include infrastructure development, improvement in our skill formation, the National Broadband Network, tax reform and, specifically within my own portfolio, the area of deregulation—of reforming the regulatory arrangements in our country to relieve the burden on business.

There are many different things occurring on a range of fronts, none of them in itself dramatically transformational but in aggregate a very important program of reform across our economy that will eliminate inefficiency, reduce costs and red tape and boost productivity in the medium term. The most important process is the Business Regulation and Competition Working Group of COAG, which is gradually progressing 27 separate items of reform that are being implemented one by one over a three- to four-year period, with a payment of $550 million, or a proportion thereof depending on delivery and performance, to be paid to the states at the end of that period.

There have been occasional wobbles. Every now and then there have been small delays, but I am happy to report to the House that the total package is on track—that this very broad, detailed process of regulatory reform is on track. Every now and then a state upper house causes a bit of a problem. Every now and then there is a slight delay because of a state election, but nonetheless this process is on track.

I will give an illustration of some of the very important areas: the development of a uniform national occupational health and safety regime, the development of harmonised environmental assessment processes between the states and the Commonwealth, a national trade-licensing scheme so that individuals in trades such as plumbing do not have to have separate licences for separate states, the development of uniform national consumer credit legislation, uniform national consumer protection legislation, a uniform national regime for registering business names—particularly important for smaller businesses—and, of course, the standard business reporting mechanism that is due to commence very shortly that enables businesses to have a single channel of information reporting to governments, state and federal.

There is also a process of Commonwealth reform occurring which involves me, as Minister for Finance and Deregulation, partnering with individual line ministers to pursue particular processes of regulatory reform, such as improving product disclosure statements under the financial services reform process, getting them down from 50 and 80 pages to a sensible size. We have pursued this reform across a number of areas already, such as managed investments and superannuation, in partnership with the respective ministers for superannuation and corporate law, formerly Senator Sherry and now Mr Bowen.

There is also a process under way of reforming our visas to ensure that we reduce the total number of different kinds of visas available. There are now over 150. That is going to be rationalised, working in partnership with the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. We are well advanced in the process of improving the approval process for health technologies, in partnership with the Minister for Health and Ageing. There are a number of other processes that are under way: rationalising antidiscrimination legislation, improving the regime for the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and improving the excise arrangements that are administered, in some cases, with overlap between the Australian Taxation Office and Customs.

There are many other areas that are going to require our dedicated attention. I would like to pay tribute to the work of my minister assisting, Craig Emerson, who has been a very diligent and dedicated contributor to this process. There is much more work to do to improve the regulatory arrangements and relieve the burden on business, but very substantial progress is occurring and this is a key part of the government’s wider strategy to deliver long-term sustainable economic growth for Australia’s future.