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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 1965

Senator PETER RAE(1.50) —I wish to speak briefly about the matter of regulation in Australia. The growth of regulation has caused concern to many people who see it as adding to costs and reducing job opportunities, lowering taxes, imposing costs on all sectors of the community and generally inhibiting many of the entrepreneurial activities which might otherwise take place for the development of the country. I believe it is important that we should have regard to the opportunities which present themselves for a complete review of all forms of regulation, that we should engage in forms of deregulation and that we should reform the regulatory process wherever possible. I am conscious of the fact that the Senate has probably paid more attention to this matter than anyone else over recent years.

Over the past 30 years we have had the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. This Committee has done an important job in checking the making of regulations to ensure that they did not infringe certain basic civil liberties. I think we need to go a lot further than that; we need to have a much greater parliamentary scrutiny of the regulation-making process. We need to ensure that we can encourage self-regulation where possible provided that adequate steps have been taken to protect public and consumer interests. We should require regulation impact statements with each proposal for new regulations. The regulation impact statements would ensure, when someone is proposing a regulation, that he looks at what other regulation may exist in that general area. This would ensure that when some form of regulation has been created that, at the same time, it is also being terminated, wherever possible, and that existing legislation is not duplicated. Another important step that needs to be taken is to bring together the Commonwealth and the States to ensure that there is an avoiding of the duplication which takes place between Commonwealth and State regulations in many areas of activity.

One of the effective ways of deregulation or of regulation reform is to ensure that the right people are involved. It seems to me to be extremely important that the job is not given to regulators. One of the experiences of the former Government was what amounted to an interdepartmental committee and the bureaucrats were given the job which was ultimately nicknamed the razor gang activity. The net result was not a very successful attack on regulation and not a very successful achievement of deregulation because the job had been given to the regulators whose natural propensity is to continue and perpetuate regulation rather than to reduce it. If honourable senators think about it, it is quite obvious that the people who ought to be involved in the deregulatory process are the people who are affected by the regulations, not the people who have a vested interest in the continuation of the regulations. Therefore, an approach which applies the use of the victims of regulations-those upon whom the regulation is imposed pay the cost of it, as well as those for whose benefit the regulation has been created in the first place-would be a good starting point. By the use of a whole cross section of committees in particular areas using the people who are involved with that particular regulation we would be able to get an input into the parliamentary and government process for the purpose of regulation reform and of deregulation, where that is possible.

I see all those steps as matters which are relatively urgent, matters which can start the process going in the opposite direction to the way in which it has been going in so many of the Western-style democracies over recent years. The temptation has been to make more and more regulation, to set up more and more quangos or statutory authorities to do more and more tasks on behalf of government rather than letting the community carry out those tasks and giving some assistance to self-regulation where self-regulation needs some assistance to enable it to work. I believe it would be necessary to review all regulation on a regular basis.

One proposal which I believe is worthy of implementation is to ensure that every section of government which already has to report, and those which do not have to report, is required to report annually in relation to what they have done with regard to the paper war; what they have done with regard to positively reducing the paper war; what they have done in relation to review of the regulations which come within their area of activity; and what they have done to evaluate whether those regulations remain as necessary or whether they are matters which could be reformed in one way or another. By the very use of that process of requiring people to look at and report on regulations we will get change and reform, even out of the regulations themselves.

Primarily I stress the importance of using the victims and the beneficiaries as a starting point in each area of activity and to endeavour to adopt an attitude which enables the review of regulation within the parliamentary process as regulation is going through. There should be a parliamentary regulatory review committee which can have a look to see whether there is not a less regulatory way of going about achieving a particular public good, whether it is really necessary to have that sort of regulation and whether it is not possible to take some of the steps that have been advocated by the Opposition in the policy which I released along with Senator Alan Missen earlier this week, which endeavour, in the sorts of ways that I have mentioned and in a large cross section of other ways, to take advantage of the experience of a lot of the people who have been involved in this parliamentary process as chairmen of committees.

For some six years I was Chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. That Committee was involved in looking at the whole of the development of the statutory authorities, how they operated and how they proliferated. Senator Alan Missen, former Chairman of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances and widely experienced in the whole question of regulation and deregulation, represented Australia at international conferences on the subject. He has a very deep knowledge and has made a deep study of the subject. Mr David Connolly, the former Chairman of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, was another person who was involved in the attempt to develop a workable, meaningful, credible, practical and low cost approach to regulation making and, wherever possible, the development of deregulation.

I think the document to which I have referred demonstrates the objectives which we have been endeavouring to achieve: Lowering costs and increasing opportunities for individuals in this country; and lowering costs to government, to the community and, in particular, to industry. I think the document indicates that the subject matter has been deeply considered by a quite large committee. I have mentioned only three members of the nine-member committee which prepared the paper. A number of approaches are necessary. No single approach will achieve the objective. A number of workable systems can be introduced to implement the achievement of the objectives. In summary, a practical approach is possible which can achieve, at relatively minimal cost, a trend away from regulation towards deregulation or regulation reform in this country. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to explain that policy which was announced earlier this week .

The PRESIDENT —Order! It being 2 p.m., in accordance with sessional order, I call on questions without notice.