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Monday, 24 March 2014
Page: 2757


Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (11:15): I move the motion relating to deregulation in the terms in which it appears in the Notice Paper:

That this House:

(1) notes:

(a) that in April 2007, the previous government promised to lift Australia's productivity performance by implementing a 'one regulation in, one regulation out' policy, but instead, between 2007 and 2013 it added over 21,000 new regulations and repealed 105;

(b) the findings of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's 2012 National Red Tape Survey which showed that:

   (i) 44 per cent of businesses spend between one and five hours a week complying with government (federal, state or local) regulatory requirements (filling out forms, applying for permits, reporting business activity);

   (ii) 72 per cent of businesses say the time they are spending on red tape has increased in the last two years; and

   (iii) 54.3 per cent say that complying with government regulations has prevented them from making changes to grow or expand their business; and

(c) that in 2013, Australia was ranked 128 out of 148 nations on the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index in terms of its regulatory burden;

(2) recognises:

(a) the need for significant deregulation and the removal of burdensome red and green tape to allow businesses in the Australian economy to grow;

(b) that the Government has a plan to cut regulation across all areas of government, including on the Parliament's first repeal day scheduled for 26 March 2014;

(c) that the House Standing Committee on the Environment is currently inquiring into the impact of 'green tape' and issues related to environmental regulation and deregulation; and

(d) that identifying other obsolete and outdated legislative instruments and removing them from the statute books will reduce the regulatory burden on the Australian economy; and

(3) commends the Government for undertaking this approach to deregulation to boost productivity in the Australian economy.

I rise today with great pleasure to note and move this motion in relation to the government's deregulation agenda—an agenda I believe is probably the single most important deregulation agenda taken at federal level in the history of the Commonwealth. It comes on the back of a government that benchmarked its success by passing laws—that is, that the volume of laws somehow had some significance to its effectiveness, which of course we know to be a complete furphy.

It is actually a shameful record that in 5½ years Labor introduced more than 975 new or amending pieces of legislation and more than 21,000 additional regulations. It speaks to a government out of control and which says that every response of government must first be a legislative response. If there is a problem, we must legislate. If there is a challenge that is faced by business or the community, we must alter a regulation, amend an act, put more paper into parliament, and that will somehow fix our problems. But of course that is not the best way to govern a society, and the fact that the Commonwealth has accumulated so much unnecessary regulation over so many years speaks to a need for urgent deregulation.

This is not just the government's view. It is also the view of the not-for-profit sector and the major business sector, and importantly, of the small and medium enterprises around our country—the many millions of small and medium businesses that struggle to compete against bigger business, that struggle to create, innovate and do the job of powering the economy day in and day out. So the first point of this motion is to note that the government has a strong deregulation agenda, and I want to commend the Prime Minister for his determination to see deregulation at the forefront of government. I also want to commend my friend the parliamentary secretary responsible for deregulation, Josh Frydenberg—a man of vision and great leadership—who is driving this agenda. And I think that as the member for Grayndler walks out it is important to note that every time he would get up in the last government and say, 'We have achieved success; we have passed hundreds of bills; today it is now 200'—or 300 or 400—it would send a chill down the spine of most Australians, because what we do not need is simply more laws; what we do not need is simply more regulation.

Labor likes to have its little red books. Well, the parliamentary secretary responsible for deregulation has produced a little red book of red tape reduction, which I can highly recommend to all members. This little red book of red tape reduction is perhaps one of the most important documents we have seen in Commonwealth history. It acknowledges that as a society we have gone too far in over-regulating and in making large, small and medium business comply with processes not once—and sometimes not even just twice—but multiple times, for the same effect and for no purpose other than regulation—no outcome that is different from any different layer of government, and not just simply a function of our federalist system but also a product of multiple acts in the same area, multiple triggers requiring different processes for the same outcome.

This is a process that has to come to an end. That would bring great productivity improvements for our country. It would give people the capacity to spend more time working for themselves in their business, not just the government, which would enable people to produce and make more money in their business That would mean more opportunities for jobs, growth, investment and prosperity for Australians. It is the government's fundamental agenda to ensure that the economy is rebooted, and there is no better way to start than with getting our own house in order—and that is government and this parliament. That is why this motion today is so important. It notes that Australian commerce and industry put out a great red tape survey in 2012, which had horrific, damning statistics in it. These showed that 44 per cent of businesses spend between one and five hours per week complying with federal, state or local government regulatory requirements—just filling out forms, applying for permits, reporting business activity. Yet 72 per cent of businesses said the time they are spending on red tape has increased in the past two years; 54.3 per cent say that complying with government regulations has prevented them from making changes to grow or expand their business.

And then there was the damning rating Australia received in competitiveness—128 out of 148 in terms of our regulatory burden. That is 128th in the world. It is not a hallmark of a competitive economy, and in the modern era we must be able to compete. We cannot compete on many of our cost structures, but we should be a competitive jurisdiction internationally in relation to our regulatory burdens. We know that major projects can fail if they are not timely. We know delay can be fatal to hundreds of billions of dollars of investments. We have seen, for example in South Australia—and I note the sad return of a Labor government there—that we lost a critical project, and I would cite delay as one of the key reasons that project never came through. Delay can be fatal to a major project. Delay is the No. 1 reason that cost structures go up in a major project and can cause those things to fail. We have to be competitive internationally.

That is why it is great to see a government that is prepared to go forward and reduce red tape in such a substantial way. We have seen the previous government's approach, and I think it was Chassidus who said, 'The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government'. He had something back then, but of course he could not have envisaged a complex and modern society like we have today. And he was not just referring to volume: the more corrupt the government, the more numerous the laws. Every response was legislative in the past government.

I have Labor members looking at me in a bemused fashion. They do not know what I am talking about. They think a new law is the answer to everything; they think a new regulation will solve every problem. It will not. We have heard a chorus of strange reactions from the Labor to this: 'This was actually our idea'. Well, I can attest that the previous government had several ministers for deregulation, and you could not identify what any of them had been doing. We know the facts. We know it was 975 new or amending pieces of legislation, 21,000 additional regulations and the repeal of only a few hundred. So it certainly was not their idea. If it was their idea, they never implemented it—another great Labor idea never implemented. It certainly would never have happened under a Labor government. They simply do not understand the weight of burden on a small business and a medium enterprise that is struggling to compete but has to work for the government. Time spent working for the government is not time well used for a small business; it is dead time. That is why I am very pleased to have my friend and colleague the member for Reid following me. He has commercial experience and has run businesses. He understands how much time is taken up working for the government when it could be better placed in the business, when it could be better placed growing and expanding, and when it could be better placed employing.

We have reached a necessary junction in our history: we need to deregulate. We need to have less regulation and more efficient regulation, and that is also the driver—not just to remove pieces of redundant legislation, which we are doing in up to 10,000 cases, but to go through those existing regulations and say that we can reduce the cost structures of so many of these. If you go through the material that the Parliamentary Secretary for Deregulation has provided, and I recommend it to members, especially those opposite, you will find each individual measure by portfolio and the specific reductions in cost-structures for business that come from this deregulation. This is real, it is quantifiable and it will mean a great boost to our productivity and competitiveness.

The cost-structures amount to the staggering sum of almost $700 million. If you really want to get business moving, if you really want growth and if you really want jobs to be created, you have to work with business to ensure they are able to grow and employ. Each of these specific measures—there are too many to read today, and I am pleased there are too many to read today, because there are over 80 here—is a winner in terms of deregulation cost.

Members opposite want to take objection to one or two of them. Even in relation to the Future of Financial Advice, when you had serious criminality and evidence of a criminal matter their first instinct was to treat the whole sector like criminals. Their first instinct is to say this is a problem with everybody, that commissions lead to criminality, which is very collectivist Labor thinking. It is not the case that because you take a commission you are somehow a criminal, or that somehow your behaviour is led down the line of becoming a criminal. You are blind to the cost structures of these industries and sectors and the complexities of how they work. It is not an adequate response to simply say, 'We are changing the law across the whole board, because everybody that might be involved in taking a commission is therefore somehow motivated to be a criminal.' That is not correct. We should address the criminality, we should address the details of what went wrong, but we should not necessarily baulk at removing this burden on so many financial advisers. We need to ensure that people have the flexibility needed in their business to compete.

I will finish by commending this motion to the House. It is a very important motion, probably one of the most important we have seen in many years. It is on the back of the Prime Minister's determination to make this a government that is about getting the shackles off business and off the not-for-profit sector to allow them to be productive parts of our society. We have come to an era in government and our society where government is too pervasive, involved in too many things, passing too many laws, and trying to do too much for too many people. We need to wind it back, we need to make sure our businesses can grow, compete, employ, and do the jobs they are supposed to do. The number one way we can do that is by deregulation in government.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?