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Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Page: 11597


Mr FRYDENBERG (KooyongParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (12:14): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

In a report soon to be released by the global professional services firm Deloitte, it is estimated that in Australia there are one million people working in the compliance sector. This is three times as many people as work in the mining sector and represents one in every 11 Australians.

This represents, very graphically, a failure by both federal and state governments over a number of years. And no government was as culpable for the increase in regulation than the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments. They gave us 21,000 additional regulations, despite Kevin Rudd promising a 'one in, one out' policy. In fact, Kevin Rudd told the Australian people that business regulation is 'out of control'. Craig Emerson, the former Minister for Small Business, said that he would take 'a giant pair of scissors to cut red tape'. But despite this, they introduced the carbon tax, with 18 different acts and 1,100 pages of regulation and legislation, and the mining tax, with 11 different acts and 525 pages of legislation and regulation.

This is why we came to government promising to cut $1 billion a year in red tape each year. This is why we promised to establish deregulation units within every portfolio. This is why we committed to setting up ministerial advisory committees, who could advise the relevant ministers on the priorities and the areas for cutting red tape. This is why we have changed the remuneration for senior public servants, so that they would be incentivised to cut red tape as opposed to increasing it. This is why we tasked the Productivity Commission to come up with a framework for auditing the performance of the regulators. This is why the Prime Minister himself has taken responsibility for the deregulation agenda and why the Office of Best Practice Regulation and the deregulation units that were previously housed in the Department of Finance have now been moved to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. And this is why we have assigned two days every year for this parliament to debate the repeal of unnecessary and redundant pieces of legislation and regulation.

In our first repeal day in March of this year we had great success. We removed more than 10,000 pieces of legislation and regulation, removing more than 50,000 pages from the statute books and announcing more than $700 million worth of compliance savings. There were issues like offshore petroleum approvals processes; opening up the Comcare scheme to allow companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions to self-insure; changing the building certification requirements for aged care so that they do not overlap between state and federal; changing the way that movies, DVDs and 3-D movies are classified, ensuring that they do not have to get multiple classifications when the content is still the same. We have had great success in moving this through the Senate because of the Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2014) Bill 2014. The changes to the agvet chemical system and also to the classification system have all successfully moved through the upper house, together with the changes to the future of financial advice, which brought nearly $200 million worth of compliance savings.

So, we have had success with repeal day 1. And now we are repeating it with our second repeal day next week and the introduction to the House of the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2014) Bill 2014 today. We are removing more than 7,200 pages from the statute books and getting rid of nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation and regulation. And it is important to understand that it is a net figure of $2.1 billion worth of compliance savings. The number will be exponentially bigger than that when you talk about the positive impact for the economy, because if you have a streamlined environmental approval process then billions of dollars of investment that otherwise may have been deferred or cancelled will now go ahead, creating many new jobs, stimulating innovation and encouraging entrepreneurship.

We are all about jobs, and deregulation goes to the heart of productivity and job creation. There are three key themes in the various bills and measures—more than 400—that we have announced through these repeal day processes.

Firstly, we are making people's interaction with government easier. The Prime Minister referred to the myGov site, where five million Australians have accounts to be able to access Medicare, Centrelink and other services on one, centralised online portal. And there is myTax, which ensures that individuals can have data pre-populated on their tax return when that data is already in the possession of the government, like interest on bank accounts, or the income from their salary or dividends from their shares.

We are also ensuring that job service providers do not need to go out and incur great expense getting documentary evidence for whether somebody actually has a job because that information is already in the possession of government. ADF personnel who leave the force and become veterans will no longer have to go through a 100-point identification check when they are seeking a claim from Veterans' Affairs because their ADF badge or their ADF identification will be sufficient. Two hundred-and-twenty hearing service providers, who provide services to more than 640,000 Australians can now lodge their applications online. This has already reduced the number of calls to government from 900 to just 170 a day. All these changes are about using new technology to ensure that the interaction of people and families with government is easier, cheaper and more time efficient.

The second set of reforms which we are introducing as part of our repeal day measures goes to the heart of trying to reduce compliance where it is duplicative, too expensive or unnecessary. One good example is the 100-shareholder rule. If Woolworths has more than 400,000 shareholders, just 100 shareholders should not be able to call a special general meeting, as they have in the past, leading to costs of $1 million for the company, let alone the time taken out by senior management and the board to acquiesce to that request. So we are saying that 100-shareholder rule need not apply, but 100 shareholders can still put issues on the agenda at a special general meeting.

The Federal Safety Commissioner requires accreditation for builders who are tendering for certain government contracts. The member for Herbert brought to my attention that in Townsville there are builders of Defence housing—some 900 Defence houses were built over the last year—who cannot afford the $75,000 for federal safety commissioner accreditation and the $38,000 each year it costs to maintain their accreditation. Therefore, they cannot afford to tender for government projects like Defence housing. This means big builders from the cities have to come to the country, regional and remote communities to do the work, which means that local plumbers, sparkies, carpenters and others miss out on doing the job. When there are overlapping occupational health and safety requirements already at the state and federal level, this additional layer of compliance for the federal safety commissioner is unnecessary in this case, so single dwellings will be exempt from that red tape requirement. This is really significant because this could open up huge amounts of jobs. I congratulate Senator Abetz also for his important work in this regard.

My colleague and friend the member for Dunkley, Bruce Billson, the Minister for Small Business, has done a lot of work to ensure that 32,500 small businesses that do not pay GST no longer have to do a BAS statement. And 432,000 small businesses that have minimal income and have to submit a BAS statement will now be exempt from the pay-as-you-go system. This is again removing red tape for small business—the heart and soul of the Liberal Party and the Nationals—and ensuring that they get a fairer go.

Aged care providers last year made 10,000 calls or submissions or applications to government departments to tell them when they changed key personnel, which may even have included a nurse. We have said that is unnecessary. So in the bills today is a reform in this area which means only if an aged care provider feels they cannot materially carry on their job will they need to make a subsequent notifications to the government. All this is about is sensible reforms to reduce compliance. One hopes that those opposite see the sense in these changes.

The third suite of reforms is around making Australia a more attractive place to invest. It is here that the one-stop shops, where the Minister for Environment has so successfully led the charge, are going to lead to more than $420 million of annual compliance savings by streamlining approval processes between state and federal governments. The Business Council of Australia documented one case where a company wanted to make a $1 billion investment in the resource sector in Australia and sought an environmental approval. It took that company more than two years, cost them more than $20 million, required 4,000 meetings and required a 12,000-page report. And when the approval came back, it had 1,500 conditions attached—300 at the federal level, 1,200 at the state level—and 8,000 sub conditions. Now I ask you: which company can go through that process and expect to want to invest again in Australia ? We are not the only country in the world that produces iron ore or coal or uranium. We are in a global market where business is not sentimental and capital is mobile, and that is why we have to make Australia a place to invest.

The Minister for Trade, Andrew Robb, should be congratulated for the changes he has made to the Export Finance Insurance Corporation, which will allow small and medium enterprises—the exact constituents that the member for New England and the Minister for Agriculture are defending day in day out—to get support from the government when they are looking to expand their businesses overseas. Currently there is a requirement that EFIC can only support producers of capital goods, not non-capital goods. But capital goods are only five per cent of exports, so you have got all these non-capital goods. One of the problems is somebody who is exporting cows could have the support but not somebody who is exporting milk. We need to extend the ability of EFIC to loan to these small and medium enterprises that export non-capital goods and not confine them to just a credit guarantee, which means that they have to pay extra costs.

There are lots of little changes that are also significant for red tape, which colleagues on this side of the House understand benefit their constituents and will be selling day after day in their electorates. Exporters no longer need to put little green tags of the tales of cattle when exporting to Europe. Nine million Australians on the Do Not Call Register will no longer need to renew their position every eight years because once they are on, they will be on indefinitely. And 70,000 motorcycles will not have to go through the extra expense of being retrofitted with special mudguards because we are bringing ourselves in line with jurisdictions overseas like Europe. People who are submitting for Defence honours—more than 13,000 applications were received last year from veterans, their families and Defence personnel—can now do it online as opposed to going through a paper based system. Companies that are limited by guarantee, more often than not with incomes under $1 million who are not-for profits, will no longer be required, as a result of changes we are introducing in the House today, to appoint an auditor. They have never been required to have an audit so why do would they need to appoint an auditor? It is just common sense.

Takeover panel members can now participate in teleconferences when they are overseas, as often they are. Importers of Defence equipment will no longer need separate permits for every consignment, for hundreds of consignments, of the same product. They will be able to have one single permit which will assist them in streamlining red tape. Exporters will no longer need to get a certificate of origin to export under the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement; they can now self-certify, saving them $70 each time they do a self-certification. NBN users will no longer be mandated to have a backup battery; it will be optional because so many people have mobiles and do not need this expensive backup battery. University staff, particularly researchers, will no longer be mandated by the government to do expensive research surveys. The Minister for Education should be congratulated on his work here because 31,000 researchers in our 39 universities will save thousands, more than 3,300, days' worth of their time. These are significant changes across the board.

The Omnibus bill, the Amending Acts 1970 to 1979 Repeal Bill 2014, the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 2) 2014 and the Spent and Redundant Instruments Repeal Regulation 2014 are whole-of-government initiatives which are going to lead to so many pieces of legislation being repealed and pages being removed from the statute books. In this Omnibus bill are 26 deregulatory measures from across nine different portfolios. The Fishing Industry Policy Council is a ministerial advisory council in the agriculture portfolio that has not been convened since the Fisheries Administration Act commenced in 1991. That will now be abolished. The Product Stewardship Advisory Group was created in December 2012 to advise the Minister for the Environment on a list of classes of products that should be accredited or regulated under the Product Stewardship Act 2011 but the Department of the Environment already consults industry on the list on an 'as needs' basis. So that will also be abolished. And the Oil Stewardship Advisory Council will also be abolished as the Department of the Environment is better placed to consult with industry on an 'as needs' basis in relation to product stewardship arrangements for oils and the recovery and recycling of used oils under the Product Stewardship Oil Act 2000. This is consistent with the recommendations in the Commission of Audit, led by Tony Shepherd, which said that the government needed to consolidate so many of our bodies. And we have done that with the abolition of more than 70 bodies already.

Also in this Omnibus bill are examples of spent and redundant acts that will be repealed. The Home and Community Care Act 1985, which was made redundant in the context of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations 2008, will now be repealed. The Papua and New Guinea Loan (International Bank) Act 1970, which relates to a guarantee of a 1973 loan to PNG that matured in 1994 and which the Bank for Reconstruction and Development has confirmed has been repaid in full, will now be repealed.

There will also be a streamlining process through measures in this Omnibus bill such as modernising the publication of requirements for the Australian Communications and Media Authority under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. ACMA will no longer be required to publish a notice in the Commonwealth Gazette when determining, varying or revoking a program standard but instead must publish a notice on ACMA's website and in one or more forms that are readily accessible to the public. These amendments will provide ACMA with increased flexibility to choose a method of publication that is most appropriate to reach its target audience and will better alert stakeholders to regulatory change. The Minister for Communications has done a fantastic job looking at every element of his portfolio and working with his parliamentary secretary, the member for Bradfield, to try to cut red tape right across the board. Both the minister and his parliamentary secretary deserve to be congratulated.

Under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000, fuel producers and suppliers report certain information to the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics on a monthly basis for the compilation of the Australian petroleum statistics. They will no longer be required to report that information on an annual basis under the act as well. Again, that removes duplication.

Importantly, the Minister for Social Services, who again is undertaking reform of red tape, is amending the Aged Care Act 1997 so that aged-care providers, who are currently required to notify the Department of Social Service of changes to key personnel within 28 days, will instead only have to notify the department of changes that materially affect the provider's suitability to provide care. So, as you can see, in this Omnibus bill there are many, many important measures.

In addition to our initiatives on repeal day one and now on repeal day two, we are doing a lot through our competitiveness agenda. My colleagues sitting behind me have come to the table with important ideas and reforms, particularly around how we can recognise in Australia products, systems and services that have already been approved under trusted international standards overseas. The fact is that we do not need to put companies like Cochlear through a second hoop here if they have already gone through that hoop overseas.

Why in Australia do we have a situation where, as was pointed out to me by the member for Longman, a manufacturer of footballs and cricket balls who brings into Australia a leather cutting machine from Italy has to pay $3,000 to get it accredited here and also has to wait a significant amount of time? Why does the approvals process that Cochlear has to go through here in Australia take 14 months longer than the same process in Europe? When a branch office of an American medical device maker that employs 52 people here in Australia wants to bring in a heart valve device from America why does it take 31 months to get approval? It costs them $300,000 to pay the application fees, get the data and employ consultants whereas that some process in Canada took just a few months and cost a quarter of the amount. By the time they had the approval for this medical device a second-generation device was already on sale in Europe. So Australian consumers missed out.

Why do importers of flame retardants that have been deemed to be a non-hazardous chemical overseas have to pay up to $100,000 to get accreditation here? Why does that happen? Why does a company importing commercial cooking equipment into Australia incur a $12,000 cost—$8,000 for testing and $4,000 for the application—before it can actually give that cooking equipment to the hospitality industry, the tourism industry or the aged-care industry? This is all about reducing significant costs, and I thank the members behind me for their absolute commitment in this respect.

What about COAG? Again, COAG is an important opportunity where we are trying to streamline deregulation by better cooperation with the states and territories. There are four specific areas where we are looking at deregulation, and the individual states and territories have been tasked to come back to COAG with ideas on how to progress reform: manufacturing, higher education, early childhood—where Sussan Ley, the member for Farrer, is doing so much good work, responding to the Productivity Commission report—and small business. The fact is that in Australia a cafe may face 75 different sets of regulations—25 at the Commonwealth level, 29 at the state level and 11 at the local level. A winery with cellar door sales could be facing up to 140 different types of regulation, just to meet its requirements.

The other key area for us is around the role of the regulators. The Commonwealth has more than 150 regulators. Some of those regulators are big, like the ATO, ASIC, APRA and ACMA, and some are much smaller, like the passports office. But what these regulators need to understand is that, from the government's perspective, we want them to take a risk based approach. We want them on one hand to understand what the risk to the community is, and the protections that are required, and on the other hand to understand what the real cost to the community and the stakeholders is if the level of compliance is so great that it is a disincentive to investment, innovation and entrepreneurship. And it is about getting that balance right, it is about ensuring good governance, about ensuring on one hand that these regulators who are setting rules are also enforcing those rules—separating those two functions. Often those regulators are able to operate on a cost recovery model, and we do not want those regulators to try to mitigate risk all the time and therefore impose additional costs on their stakeholders because they have a cost recovery model. To rein in the role of the regulators, to get them to adopt a risk based approach, is something that I know the member for Mitchell very much understands and has been a good advocate for in this place.

It is not just the coalition that has said that these reforms are important. These reforms have been supported publicly by groups like APPEA, ACCI, the BCA, the Australian Industry Group, Universities Australia and the Australian Retailers Association. Groups that employ millions of Australians have applauded this government's determination. I want to say that this has been a whole-of-government effort. The Prime Minister has led it and his ministers have driven this reform. And I want to congratulate each and every one of them for the role they have played.

My role has been assisted by a fantastic group of colleagues on a deregulation committee: the member for Bass, Andrew Nikolic; the member for Pearce, Christian Porter; the member for Deakin, Michael Sukkar; the member for Reid, Craig Laundy; the member for Hindmarsh, Matt Williams; and the member for Ryan, Jane Prentice. They have provided absolutely wonderful support to me and to the government as we have been coming up with ideas, as we have been trying to implement them and drive them forward with our colleagues.

I want to finish with an anecdote told to me by my friend and colleague the member for Hughes just a few days ago. He said that in his electorate he was asked to go and present volunteer awards. He expected to go and present a volunteer of the year award to Lifesaving volunteers, or to those in the rural and regional fire service, or to members of his school council or local school councils. But the award he presented, for the volunteer team of the year, was a to a group of 'form fillers', people with the best of intentions who worked hard and were wonderful volunteers and members of his community and whose single job it was to help their fellow citizens navigate their way through the maze of government. What are our systems coming to when we have to take the time of volunteers and rely on their good offices to actually help other citizens fill in government forms? It is no surprise to me, when I think that the combination of our tax acts is more than 5,000 pages, or that the Corporations Act is small by comparison at more than 2½ thousand pages, or the fact that it has been documented that this chamber has doubled the amount of federal legislation and regulation approximately every 15 years since Federation. We are saying to those opposite: enough is enough. We on this side are succeeding where they failed. We on this side will not allow another 21,000 additional regulations to be introduced into the parliament, into society, without rigorous economic analysis.

As the Prime Minister said, regulation will no longer be the default action of government; it will only be a means of last resort after every other avenue has been exhausted. And we are alert to the costs to families, we are alert to the costs to individuals, we are alert to the costs to small businesses and we are alert to the costs of the not-for-profit sector.

I and my colleagues on this side of the House will ensure that the men and women of Australia are unshackled from the regulations that the Labor Party left them. No longer will we deny them an opportunity to employ more people, to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation and, at the end of the day, to boost productivity. This is an important agenda, and $2.1 billion of savings is an absolutely brilliant result for this government. I commend the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2014) Bill 2014 to the House.

Debate adjourned.