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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3277

Mr GILES (Scullin) (18:38): I am very pleased that the member for Higgins has such confidence in the economic outcomes of the deregulatory agenda the parliamentary secretary is pursuing. On the evidence to date there is no basis for any such confidence, given his answer to the question about the financial impact of the legislation that is before us. I think he pleaded to about $13 million today.

Mr Hartsuyker: It is a public document!

Mr GILES: Indeed. So, what a red-letter day this has turned out to be. All the hype and triumphalism of last week has just faded away. But, there still remains this discordance between the incredible language we hear in this debate, which sits so poorly next to the substance of the matters before us.

I think it is worth reflecting on this. All of us in this place are opposed to unnecessary regulation.

Mr Nikolic: Hear, hear!

Mr GILES: Thank you, Member for Bass.

Mr Nikolic: Not very genuine!

Mr GILES: On this side of the House—

Mr Nikolic: Why didn't you do it over six years?

Mr GILES: Listen for just a moment and you might learn something. I do not think so, but you might. On this side of the House we focus our attention on the question of necessity, not blind opposition to regulation per se. We recognise there are real choices to be made in this place, and rhetoric can be no substitute for those choices. As the member for Fraser said earlier today, it is not the number of regulations but their quality. That fact has become more and more true through the course of what has passed for today's debate on this subject.

It is interesting that before I came here I was—

Mrs Prentice: In the union movement—

Mr GILES: at an event in this House that showed the bipartisanship can take place in this House from time to time. It was a fantastic event. I was listening to a great trade unionist, as the member for Ryan can say. It was the president of the Australian Medical Association, the sort of union that gets some kudos—and I see the nods. That great unionist, Mr Steve Hambleton, was talking about very significant social issues relating to alcohol abuse, with a particular focus on foetal alcohol spectrum disorders—matters that I think are of genuine concern to all of us in this place.

What is really leading us as decision makers in this place? Is it blind faith in the market—that the alcohol manufacturers and the supermarkets are going to fix this great social problem? We are being asked to explore some regulatory solutions, as we should, as we must, and as I hope we will. As the member for Isaacs said, legislation of this type has a very long tradition in this place, going all the way back to a former member for Kooyong, who also had some other attributes in his public service.

We are all supportive of ensuring that the statute books are kept in order and up to date, in an efficient manner. This is appropriate and it is supported by Labor. But this time we are told that it is apparently different. We are having a bonfire. In fact, according to the member for Wright we are doing housekeeping and having a bonfire, which strikes me as a difficult combination. But it is more than that. In the second reading we also had this this sepia-toned homage to Sir Robert Menzies—and I think it is important on this day to note the honorific—a paean to the founding myths of the Liberal Party, accompanied by that great straw man of members opposite: the nanny state.

What we should reflect on, if we are interested in deregulation, is that Labor in government actually had a real deregulatory agenda—not ideological rhetoric dressed up as something more than what it is. The Seamless National Economy effectively did tackle the cost of inconsistent and unnecessary regulation. The Productivity Commission, as the member for Gellibrand was touching on upon in a slightly different context, quantified the impact of the Seamless National Economy reforms on productivity as having increased GDP in the order of $6 billion per annum.

I would like to make a more wide-ranging contribution to this debate, but obviously the government's confidence in it has meant that our consideration has been caught short. I would like to go back to two questions of deregulation for the parliamentary secretary.

I will start with knights and dames and the restoration of yesterday, which gives us to a very useful pointer to some necessary deregulation. I asked myself how unsatisfactory it is that Australia's Prime Minister needed the sign-off from the Queen to effect this signature reform of the government. I ask if there is any consideration on behalf of the parliamentary secretary to remove this imperial impediment to good governance and attend to this deregulation and end this unnecessary duplication. Perhaps this would also enable an Australian head of state. Perhaps he could also consider how the changing Approval of Care Recipient Principles to Approval of Care Recipients Principles— (Time expired)