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Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Page: 11590

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (11:45): by leave—Today bills are introduced for the second red tape repeal day. It is the second of many repeal days to come. Every day this government is working to build a strong, prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia. Every day we are seeking to identify ways to make life easier for individuals, community groups, charities and businesses large and small. Our Economic Action Strategy aims to remove burdens from business, make our country more competitive and drive more jobs and higher living standards for all Australians. But today—this day—I am pleased to report that since the election this government has reduced annual red-tape costs by over $2 billion. This more than doubles our original commitment of a $1 billion a year cut in red-tape costs.

While some regulation is necessary, and nearly all regulations originally had some point, we are now suffering from regulatory overkill. Between 2010 and last year, an act of parliament was passed every two days. Under the former government some 21,000 new regulations became part of our national life. That does not include the regulations, laws and by-laws that were added at state and territory and local levels. While it is easy to point to bizarre examples, like the ACT government's attempt to require safety supervisors at sausage sizzles, the purpose of this government today is to look beyond the absurd. It is to identify the raft of red tape that adds costs without commensurate public benefit. Talk to any butcher, newsagent, drycleaner or cafe owner and he or she will tell you that it is the accumulation of regulation that damages initiative, productivity and the willingness of people to have a go.

If red tape can grow incrementally, then it can be cut in the same way and that is what the government is doing today. When it comes to regulation, we are changing the culture of government. Deregulation units are now in place across government; ministerial advisory councils have been established in each portfolio so that the people impacted by decisions can have a say on them. Portfolio regulation audits are underway. The performance pay of senior public servants now includes deregulation as a key performance indicator. The site has been established, allowing every Australian to make a contribution to the government's deliberations on cutting red tape. Regulatory impact statements are required for cabinet submissions because assessing the cost of any regulation is as important as knowing its benefits. Soon, a regulatory performance framework will drive cultural change within regulators and help to ensure that regulations are administered effectively and efficiently.

In March, we held the first ever red tape repeal day. On that day, nearly 10,000 unnecessary or counterproductive regulations and 1,000 redundant acts of parliament were removed. That day we relegated some 50,000 pages of redundant regulation from the law books to the history books. Since the first red tape repeal day we have scrapped the carbon tax and the mining tax. Scrapping the carbon tax has not only saved typical households $550 a year and removed a $9 billion a year handbrake from our economy, but it has provided a direct red-tape saving to business of $85 million a year.

Each repeal day is an opportunity to reduce or eliminate regulation and legislation that has outlived its usefulness or does more harm than good. Today we add to this with almost a thousand acts and regulations to be scrapped. More than 7,200 pages of legislation and regulation will go as a result of this second red tape repeal day.

These changes, large and small, are about making people's lives easier, because we are a government that is freeing up businesses so that they focus on the people they are meant to serve. We will make it easier, for instance, for bricks-and-mortar shops to compete with online stores by reducing their compliance costs because, all too often, the retail sector has to interact with multiple agencies from local, state and national government. We are making it easier for Australian Apprenticeships Support Network providers, who will no longer have to maintain some three million paper files and waste money every quarter doing so. By reducing administrative costs, these service providers can better focus on assisting apprentices and employers in meeting the skills Australia needs. We are also making life simpler for users of managed investment schemes, who will no longer have to undertake two separate know-your-customer checks before they can complete their applications, because one check should be enough. Every year there are over 500,000 new applicants for these schemes and every duplicate check costs the managed funds around $40—as well as the time the customer spends providing the same information twice.

In health care we are reducing the time taken to list medicines on the PBS to improve access to those vital life saving and life enhancing drugs. We are delivering a one-stop shop for environmental approvals. Reducing these approval delays is expected to result in regulatory savings to business of over $426 million a year.

Our Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda is promoting lower costs, better skills and the have-a-go ethos that is so much a part of the Australian character. By reinvigorating Australian businesses we reinvigorate the economy. Deregulation is an essential part of that agenda because bubble wrapping our creative minds in red tape stifles innovation and flexibility. Importantly, the competitiveness agenda includes proposals to reduce duplication of our regulatory arrangements where trusted international standards have already been met or trusted international assessments have already been made. Our guiding principle is that if a system, service or product has been improved under the trusted international standard or risk assessment then Australian regulators should not impose any additional requirement without a demonstrable reason to do so.

We are already seeing the benefits of this. For instance, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has just advised Cochlear, who make the bionic ear, that all of its products are eligible to use European Union certification to streamline TGA certification and that implementation will begin from next month. This change, according to Cochlear, will mean that thousands of people here and overseas will have access to the very latest devices, sometimes up to a year earlier than may otherwise have been the case.

As well, we are making it easier for small to medium exporters to finance their export activity now that the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation has the flexibility to lend directly for all types of exports—not just capital goods—reducing business costs and processing time. EFIC's adoption of accelerated execution processes for some transactions could shorten processing time by 40 per cent. This could save an average of $5,000 per export contract. These measures will make it easier for entrepreneurs to transform ideas into reality and create an environment where small businesses can do more.

With changes to the Corporations Act governing the administration of general meetings making it harder for activists to make vexatious requests for shareholder meetings, the management of Australia's largest companies can spend more time focused on managing their company and managing their shareholders. We are making these changes because people do not work for government, government should work for people. It is government's job to serve the people, not the people's job to serve the government. We are a country of people who work hard, pay their taxes, volunteer in their local communities and save for their retirement.

Where we can make it easier for people to spend their time as they choose, rather than waste it filling out forms, we should. For example, a working mother who does not want to be contacted by telemarketers during her spare time will be able to register both her home and mobile phone number on the Do Not Call Register. By keeping her numbers on the list indefinitely we are now also making sure that she does not have to remember to re-register every eight years. This same mother could also benefit from the rollout of the myTax online portal that prefills individual's tax returns so that they do not have to spend hours flipping through the pages of a paper tax return. For over 250,000 people this program should reduce the time taken to submit a tax return. And the broader myGov system means that Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support customers can obtain information, make claims and access services without having to visit a service centre in person or spend time on hold on the phone.

Cutting red tape is about making life easier. It means anything from less time in airports waiting in queues because of SmartGate to more forms of identification that marriage celebrants may accept. Cutting red tape should mean less time in queues, less time filling out forms and less time searching for information. These changes and other changes since September of last year have removed over $2 billion in annual red-tape costs. But this is the start, not the end. We are not only cutting red tape but changing the culture that fosters and encourages it. Regulation should not and must not be the default option for policymakers, because more regulation is not the answer to every corporate, community or personal failing. We are a country with highly skilled and highly capable people running businesses, helping community groups and making our country better. We are putting more trust in them to make the right choices and we know that our people are up to the task. I am proud of the progress that we have made so far and I pledge that there is much more yet to come.