‘Red tape’ and ‘beige tape’: what are they and why do they matter?
If red tape is poor or dated legislation, rules or interventions leading to unnecessary burden or irrelevant outcomes, beige tape describes the same situation through ineffective regulatory implementation.
The need to cut ‘red tape’ and reduce the regulatory burden is a familiar call from business, business advocates and other duty holders, and a frequent subject of publications by regulators (see for example Red tape reduction | Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission or Red tape reduction | WA Government).
At the coal face, regulatory practitioners can easily find the emphasis on ‘red tape’ frustrating. The regulators’-eye view of the world naturally focuses on the public value of regulation, like preventing or fixing wrongs or harms, or changing individual, organisational and community behaviour for the good.
Unfortunately, notwithstanding the numerous gatekeeping mechanisms to ensure new regulations are fit for purpose, parsimonious and effective, the landscape of government remains littered with outmoded statutes, rules, licenses, standards and the like. Even the best-intentioned regulatory frameworks or interventions, if unreviewed over the longer term, can create an unnecessary burden – as this example from WA, discussed on a recent NRCoP webinar on licensing, amply illustrates.
What should be the role of the contemporary regulator in these circumstances? Is it our responsibility to be constantly assessing whether we still have a problem, and if so how to reduce it, rather than just focusing on administering our legislation and regulatory approach?