Western Australia has about 700 different state government business licensing schemes. Forty-three state government agencies have business licensing functions. Every industry in Western Australia is regulated by at least one business licensing scheme. Business licensing in Western Australia is varied and far-reaching, for example covering driving, teacher registration, kangaroo shooting and cat breeding. If licensing schemes are not carefully designed and properly enforced, the objectives of the schemes will not be achieved.
In this inquiry the ERA has sought to identify and address the reasons why reform can be difficult for agencies and legislators, and to propose ways to address those reasons.
The inquiry began on 30 November 2017 and finished on 22 February 2019, when the ERA provided a final report, including recommendations, to the Treasurer. The final report was tabled in Parliament on 21 March 2019.
The ERA’s final report incorporated findings from an extensive public consultation process, including 73 submissions in response to its consultation papers and online questionnaire, and draft report.
Recommendations (in summary)
Recommendation 1: Responsibility for cross-government business licensing policy, monitoring and performance improvement should be assigned to a senior minister.
Recommendation 2: State government agencies should manage business licensing schemes as public assets and continually manage and improve these schemes.
Recommendation 3: The governance framework should include a mechanism that requires agencies to treat business licensing schemes as public assets and continually manage and improve these schemes.
Recommendation 4: When agencies report on reform activities under Streamline WA, that reporting should include:
- Improvements to business licensing schemes that the agency intends to implement in the next 12 months.
- Changes to business licensing schemes made in the previous 12 months.
Recommendation 5: To make reform and improvement of business licensing schemes easier, government should require a central agency to coordinate an omnibus bill each year to implement legislative changes needed to improve business licensing schemes.
Recommendation 6: In order to ensure agencies review whether older schemes are needed and remove redundant licensing schemes, Streamline WA should consider automatic repeal (sunset) legislation that operates for a limited time.
Recommendation 7: Agencies should improve consumer and licensee input into the design and management of business licensing schemes.
Recommendation 8: The Better Regulation Unit in the Department of Treasury should:
- Report publicly on agency compliance with Regulatory Impact Assessment requirements in an annual report, in accordance with current Regulatory Impact Assessment guidance.
- Publish and maintain a repository of agencies’ Preliminary Impact Assessments and the Better Regulation Unit’s responses. These documents should be published as soon as the Better Regulation Unit has provided its final response to the agency.
- Publish and maintain a repository of agencies’ Consultation Regulatory Impact Statements and submissions to those statements. Consultation Regulatory Impact Statements should be published as soon as the agency has completed them. Submissions should be published as soon as possible after the agency receives them.
- Publish and maintain a repository of agencies’ Decision Regulatory Impact Statements and the Better Regulation Unit’s responses. Decision Regulatory Impact Statements and the Better Regulation Unit’s responses should be published as soon as possible after a decision about the regulation has been made, allowing for confidential information to be redacted and minor errors to be corrected.
Recommendation 9: As part of the business licensing governance framework, a unit within government should be given responsibility for helping agencies to develop capability in evaluating the performance of business licensing schemes and holding agencies to account in evaluating and improving business licensing schemes.
Recommendation 10: Agencies should report to the licensing support unit annually on the management of business licensing schemes using the two common assessment tools set out in this report.
Recommendation 11: Agencies should review the outstanding recommendations for business licensing schemes that have been reviewed since 2013.
Recommendation 12: Agencies should assess business licensing schemes that have not been reviewed in more than 10 years (appendix C), to determine whether a major review is required.
Recommendation 13: To address a lack of transparency in compliance, agencies should create, or review and update, compliance and enforcement policies for business licensing schemes, and publish them on their websites.
Recommendation 14: To address the slow rate of digitisation of administrative processes and reduce the administrative burden for licensees, government should target Information Communications Technology investment toward business licensing schemes that currently have no information about the scheme on any agency’s website, and/or where online application processes are not available, only partially available or unclear.
Recommendation 15: To assist agency staff to carry out their regulatory responsibilities effectively and efficiently, agency heads should ensure that capability gaps identified in this inquiry are addressed.