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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2898

Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (11:58): I think one of the major jobs our government had on taking office was to reduce the costs of doing business. In the main, you could say that what we have done so far in dealing with state governments, once the Senate signs off on it, is create one-stop shops and lower the cost—it looks like almost half a billion dollars a year—to have a simpler, faster, cheaper approval process. If businesses have to get approval to do things from two levels of government, you would think that they were mostly big businesses and corporations, but they are not always. And, whether it is or whether it is not, it is not a good reason to have an incredibly expensive process, going through multi levels—quite often, three levels—of government, to simply get an approval to proceed, to get a development application through or to get a business model through. It is incredibly expensive. To have a one-stop shop where we agree to state governments signing off on our behalf makes a lot of sense.

I do recall that, under the previous government, when the current Leader of the Opposition in the House was environment minister, he pretty much totally copied existing state legislation for coalmining and the like, which was absolutely unnecessary in the state of New South Wales because it pretty much mirrored what was already happening. So, where we have this sort of thing, it makes absolutely no sense to have the multilayered levels of government tripling the cost of what should be simple and able to be processed far more cheaply, far more rationally and far more pragmatically, to allow business of all sizes, small or large, to go about increasing our nation's productivity and efficiency and giving us something to look forward to in the future.

Deputy Speaker—I see it is the new Deputy Speaker—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Henderson ): Good afternoon.

Mr JOHN COBB: I would like to take this opportunity, while we are talking about efficiencies in business and building or whatever it might be in our country, to say that I think that political correctness has kind of taken over from common sense in a lot of these things. I think that we do have to go further as a nation at all levels of government—certainly at the federal level but particularly at a state level, and perhaps, in a lot of areas, even more so at the local government level, where I think political correctness is pretty much totally out of control, particularly where individuals want to get development applications for domestic reasons, to build domiciles or to alter domiciles, but right through all levels of government.

I do think we have to go further, and I think it does require leadership, and from the top. I think that this is a great opportunity as we lead the nation in rationalising those processes that we have to go through, as individuals, as companies and as governments, in order to do anything—to start a business, to do a development or whatever it might be, in farming, in business or in mining. I think this is a great opportunity for the Minister for the Environment to show some leadership and to stand up and say: 'Political correctness is not the reason we do things.'

In Australia, I think we suffer greatly from the fact that, when anything goes wrong—and I do not blame the media for when we make a mistake, as a politician or as a government; that is something we do to ourselves—the media has a huge role in always wanting to find a scapegoat. Nothing is ever an accident—although most things are. So they always want a scapegoat, which means that the bureaucracy involved immediately want to have more red tape and more process so that it is very hard for anyone to actually be at fault when something goes wrong.

I think that this is a great time for the Minister for the Environment to show some courage and leadership and say, 'Enough is enough.' I think back to when the big change in a lot of this happened. I remember when it happened in my state of New South Wales. Instead of it being 'Buyer beware' when you bought a house or a unit or whatever it was, suddenly the vendor had to produce all the possible information that anyone could want, in terms of the history of the plot and the way it was built, rather than the buyer having to deal with it himself. What that meant was that it was far more likely that there would be litigation at the local government level. So now you have to have a process a foot thick before anyone is game to give you permission to put up a shed in your backyard or whatever it might be. I do believe that we need to not be so politically correct. A lot of systems work very well but something needs to take the place of DAs being so involved. The DA process is probably adding 30 per cent to the cost of a house. Quite often the cost of getting a DA for a farm or a business development is amazing not just in cost and time but in cost and money.

We do need to have rules and certainly if we are talking about public buildings or public utilities then perhaps there is a case to be made to ensure everything is right up-front. But where it is a private business, a small business or a private situation, the rules are the rules. You should be able to do it and if something goes wrong, it is on your head if you have not built it according to the rules. What we have now, whether it is farming or business, is that you have to go to court before you can start not when you have done something wrong. That is why the cost is so enormous.

It is called political correctness and we are drowning in it in our country. I think the Minister for the Environment is the person who should be leading the way and saying, 'We do not have to die or drown in a welter of political correctness that is raising the cost of doing business to the extent that it is, whether it is for a person, a small business or at the private or the corporate level.' Now is a great time for the Minister for the Environment to show that courage and to speak up.

Debate adjourned.