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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1607


Mrs McNAMARA (Dobell) (13:03): I rise to support the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Amendment (Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee Abolition) Bill 2014, which delivers on this government's commitment of a leaner and more efficient government. This bill amends the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 to cease the operation of the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee, otherwise known as CAMAC, and its legal committees. As a member of the coalition government, I support lean government. One of the key commitments of this government is to reduce the size of government and ensure that government services are as efficient and relevant as possible.

The CAMAC was established in 1989 to provide independent advice to the Australian government on matters relating to: the amendment, administration and reform of the corporations legislation; companies or a segment of the financial products and services industry; and proposals to improve the efficiency of financial markets. CAMAC is a statutory body corporate comprising part-time members appointed in a personal capacity on the basis of their knowledge and experience in business, financial markets, law, economics and accounting. CAMAC was established to advise the government in relation to reform of the corporations legislation following the efforts to bring about a national framework for corporations and security regulation throughout the 1980s. At the time the effort required to progress the harmonisation of state and territory regulation into a single national law saw little time for extensive consideration of how these laws should be reformed more broadly to promote economic development.

The formalisation of CAMAC provided the Commonwealth with an independent group to advise on how this unified law, or the manner in which it was currently administered, could be improved. The work of CAMAC has expanded from advising on corporate and financial market matters into areas of financial services and products as the Commonwealth has legislated on these issues through the Corporations Act.

Australian businesses have developed strong industry representation and no longer require a taxpayer funded committee to put forward their views. The government acknowledges the contribution CAMAC has made to the development of corporate and financial services law reform over the past 25 years. In consideration of the evolution of the business community over the last 25 years, CAMAC is now deemed obsolete. It has become an additional layer of taxpayer funded bureaucracy which is no longer required. The cessation of CAMAC will generate savings of $2.8 million over the forward estimates. The committee's abolition will not in any way prevent or hinder the business community from being able to engage with the government on issues arising in corporate law, financial markets and financial services.

The bill will terminate the operation of CAMAC by repealing part 9 of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act and making a number of consequential amendments to that act. It also makes a number of consequential amendments to the ASIC Act as a result of the repeal of part 9 and provides for the transitional and savings arrangements that are necessary to reflect the cessation of that agency.

The reality is that business no longer requires a government body in order to express their views in relation to corporation laws. The government will continue to work with Australian businesses and carefully consider their views and opinions. The government is committed to open and transparent policymaking processes and, where any significant regulator changes are proposed, the government will engage in genuine consultation with the stakeholders. We will continue to quantify the cost of any new regulation in a regulation impact statement.

The Treasury will continue to advise the government in relation to corporate law and financial services. In addition, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission will continue to operate under its enabling legislation to make recommendations to the government about any matters connected with the following: a proposal to make or amend the corporation legislation; the operation or administration of the corporation legislation; companies or a segment of the financial products and financial services industry; and the efficiency of the financial markets. Moreover, the government retains the ability to refer matters regarding the corporate regulatory framework to other government research and advisory bodies such as the Productivity Commission and the Australian Law Reform Commission.

The Productivity Commission has previously completed reviews on the regulatory burden on business in relation to directors' duties and liabilities in 2006 and executive remuneration in 2010. The government announced in last year's budget that we would abolish the CAMAC and its legal committee as part of our efforts to achieve a smaller and more rational government. The government believes that an additional layer of taxpayer funded bureaucracy is not required in order for business to present its views on corporate regulation reform to government.

Since the 2013 election, the government has reduced the number of government bodies by over 250. In the 2014-15 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the government announced the abolition of 138 government bodies; the consolidation of 15 government bodies into existing government departments; the transfer of two bodies out of the Commonwealth; and the merger of 26 bodies, while a further five will consolidate their offices with shared service centres or supporting departments. The abolition and merger of some government bodies—including the CAMAC—will improve coordination and accountability, reduce the costs associated with separate governance arrangements, and increase efficiency in how public funds are used to deliver services to the community.

The need for smaller and more efficient government is essential if we are to contribute to repairing the budget and ensuring the ongoing sustainability of government operations. Former President of the United States Ronald Reagan once said:

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it

Members opposite adopted this approach and believed that government had an answer to every question. This is why Labor introduced more than 21,000 additional regulations that stifled investment and job creation. So much for Labor's 'one regulation in and one regulation out' policy.

This government wants to get out of the way of business, reduce needless bureaucracy and allow the economy to grow. This is why we are getting on with doing what we said we would do: cutting $1 billion in red and green tape each year. Since the election, the government has more than doubled this target, announcing over 400 measures and a net reduction of over $2.1 billion in compliance costs. Last October, the government removed approximately 1,000 pieces and over 7,200 pages of legislation and regulation. This was in addition to our first repeal day, where over 10,000 pieces and 50,000 pages of legislation and regulation, and over $700 million of compliance costs were scrapped. Members opposite were quick to downplay our achievement, as they fail to understand the importance of having a sustainable and efficient government. Unnecessary regulation hurts productivity, deters investment and innovation, and costs jobs.

Australia has the unenviable status of being ranked 124th out of 148 countries for burden of government regulation in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index. Alarmingly, the Productivity Commission has estimated that regulation compliance costs could amount to as much four per cent of Australia's GDP. Despite members opposite dismissing these concerns, this government will continue to designate two parliamentary sitting days each year as repeal days to eliminate costly and unnecessary legislation and regulation. Not only will this result in more efficient government and productive business; it will improve our nation's competitiveness, helping to create more jobs while lowering household costs.

Our deregulation agenda has been welcomed by Australia's small business community. Last month I was fortunate to welcome our Minister for Small Business, the Hon. Bruce Billson MP, to Dobell to meet with stakeholders from our small business community. Minister Billson is a refreshing change for local small business operators, who know they finally have a minister who understands the challenges of running a small business. The minister heard firsthand from small business operators on how this government is strengthening the environment in which they operate.

We know that the cost of compliance is a major barrier to growth. The average Australian business deals with eight regulators in a given year. Businesses spend close to four per cent of their total annual expenditure on complying with regulatory requirements and spend approximately 19 hours a week on compliance related activities. This impacts on a business's capacity to grow and drive job creation.

The former Labor government left 200,000 more Australian unemployed, because they did not understand how business works. Their 21,000 new regulations put a handbrake on the Australian economy. Their gross debt, which was projected to rise to $667 billion, dried the well of capital and finance that was available to businesses looking to grow and expand. In contrast, this government has removed $2 billion of red tape and compliance costs and has commenced the difficult budget repair job. Every Australian understands the budget is under pressure. We were elected to fix Labor's debt and deficit disaster and return the budget to surplus. We will succeed.

Measures proposed by this bill promote lean government and remove government interference from the daily operations of business. Measures such as this assist in growing the Australian economy. A stronger economy means a stronger budget. We have seen the opposition treat our deregulation agenda with contempt. Furthermore, members opposite appear to take pleasure in deliberately getting in the way of the budget repair job. The Labor party continues to block $30 billion of vital budget savings, even opposing savings it once promised when in government.

With declining terms of trade and more pressure being placed on budget revenues, it is essential that Australia have a government which takes responsibility for the budget seriously Let us not forget that Labor managed to turn nearly $50 billion in the bank into projected net debt of well over $200 billion. This was the fastest deterioration in debt in dollar terms and as a share of GDP in modern Australian history. This is why our government has methodically examined the role of government in the business community. We have looked at all workings of government and with bills such as this we are ensuring that government is as rational and cost effective as possible.

Lean government will lead us toward a sustainable future. The government's reform strategy clearly establishes criteria to introduce new regulation. It is important that we ask ourselves what is the purpose, cost and impact on productivity of proposed initiatives before regulating. Only after these questions are answered and only when it is absolutely necessary, with no sensible alternatives available, should government proceed to regulate. Since our election we have already implemented several substantial amendments to the regulatory process, including: requiring cabinet submissions proposing legislative changes with a significant regulatory impact to be subject to the regulatory impact assessment process; establishing designated deregulation units within ministers' departments; and finalising ministerial advisory committees to advise on deregulation priorities and opportunities for cutting regulation; where appropriate, linking the remuneration of senior members of the public service to their performance in reducing red and green tape; having the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet take over responsibility for deregulation and the Office of Best Practice Regulation; and establishing deregulation as a standing item on the COAG agenda, enabling federal and state governments to cut duplication and overregulation.

Unlike the former government we will ensure rigorous and mandatory post-implementation reviews to determine how effective new regulations have been. The Borthwick-Milliner review, commissioned by Labor in 2011, reported in 2013, in reference to the previous government, 'a widespread lack of acceptance of and commitment by ministers and agencies to the regulatory impact assessment process.' This government is committed to ensuring that we will not have an economy strangled by regulation and red tape. We are doing what former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he would do, and that is to take a giant pair of scissors to the red tape that is strangling small business.

The government's key reform themes are to: minimise and simplify business interaction with government bodies; reduce regulatory obligation and reporting; fuel economic growth; and implement common sense reforms. Measures such as the abolition of the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee demonstrate this government's success in simplifying government and deregulating the Australian economy. The government will continue to work closely with our business community to ensure that our reforms assist them rather than hinder them. The government must demonstrate confidence in the business sector and support them to work productively with us in implementing reform that will strengthen the Australian economy and lead to greater job growth. I look forward to ongoing deregulation and simplification of government and commend this bill to the House.