It is no surprise to see that ongoing and urgent regulatory reform is one of the main themes set out in the White Paper.

The White Paper identifies a number of areas where the Government will work with Australian States and Territories and the business community to improve competition and productivity and reduce administrative, compliance and enforcement costs. The key national objectives are:

  1. Six priority areas for major reform to lower costs for business and improve competition and productivity as agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in April 2012;
  • address duplicative and cumbersome environmental regulation
  • streamline the process for approvals of major projects
  • rationalise carbon reduction and energy efficiency schemes
  • deliver energy market reforms to reduce costs
  • improve assessment processes for low-risk, low-impact developments
  • best-practice approaches to regulation
  1. Enter into a National Productivity Compact with the States, Territories and business to pursue regulatory and competition reform.
  2. Progress high-value reforms already identified by the Business Regulation and Competition Working Group and the Standing Council on Federal Financial Relations.
  3. Reduce reporting burdens on business by removing overlaps and expanding the use of online business reporting.
  4. Pursue through COAG and the Business Advisory Forum continuous improvements to lift regulatory performance across all areas of regulatory practice, with a particular focus on the application of risk-based approaches and greater attention to reform implementation and enforcement.

In one of the few real policy announcements in the White Paper, the Federal Government has proposed the development of a new National Productivity Compact (Compact) on competition and regulation to support the regulation reforms between the Commonwealth, the States and Territories and business. The Compact will set out principles for effective regulation and reform, and include commitments for continued consultation with business on a new reform agenda and improved regulatory processes at all levels of government, as well as measures to ensure the hard won benefits of new national frameworks are sustained over time.

Our view

Regulatory reforms are arguably the cornerstone of the White Paper. If we get this right, then we will immediately oil the wheels of business in the region. But, it will take collaboration at all levels to make this work.

The immediate regulatory reform priorities should include streamlining our visa processes (e.g. so Asian students can work on major projects), simplifying our tax structure (including the rules on sending Australians overseas on short term secondments and assignments) and accelerate the harmonisation of federal and state legislation.

COAG’s National Partnership Agreement to Deliver a Seamless National Economy (National Partnership) has already delivered a number of integrated reforms.

The White Paper suggests that, by fully implementing at least 17 of the 27 deregulation priority reforms being delivered under the National Partnership, there could be cost reductions to business of around $4 billion per year and, after an adjustment period this could increase GDP by over $6 billion per year in the longer term. The national occupational health and safety laws and the National Occupational Licensing System are two examples of the remaining reforms yet to be implemented.

What does it mean for your business?

Regulatory reform and harmonisation is one area where the White Paper has set out concrete goals. One of the main barriers to increasing productivity in the Australian economy is our duplicative and costly regulatory system. The removal of unnecessary regulatory measures and impediments to cross-border business activity will better align Australian regulatory frameworks with those of other countries in the region.

Australian businesses should embrace regulatory reform by working with and supporting all levels of government to ensure that regulatory reform continues to be implemented.