Improving Australia’s regulatory system

25 Nov 2013

This paper highlights opportunities to improve the administration of the law, noting that while key regulators must be independent, they must also operate in an environment with incentives to better understand business and minimise regulatory burdens, including those arising from delays and uncertainty.

Executive Summary
Major findings and recommendations:

  • This paper addresses the key actions that need to be taken to realise a more efficient regulatory system in Australia. It builds on the Business Council of Australia’s Standards for Rule Making, released last year, which outlined the BCA’s expectations of the characteristics of a high- performing regulatory system.
  • Australia’s regulatory system may be relatively well evolved and sophisticated on some measures, but this does not mean that it delivers efficient regulatory outcomes at all times. Australia has well-established regulatory institutions and mechanisms such as the Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), but they are not being used to their full potential in creating an efficient regulatory system.
  • More and more, governments are resorting to new regulation to solve problems, often without a detailed understanding of what the problem is, or with false confidence that regulation is the best means of addressing the problem.
  • Australia also has a large existing stock of regulation, much of which is inefficient and remains largely untackled despite attempts at reform. It is also continuing to grow. At last count Australia had well over half a million pages of regulation and the federal government over the last decade has introduced around 6,000 pages of new legislation on average each year.
  • Just as governments are increasingly resorting to new regulation, their compliance with due process has been lacklustre. This is most acute for the biggest regulations impacting our whole economy at the Commonwealth level – fewer than half of which in a number of recent years were subject to Regulation Impact Statements before their introduction.
  • This increasing build-up of new regulation has been accompanied by rapid growth in the resources of many regulators, with some major Commonwealth regulators growing faster than the budget and the economy over the last decade. Despite increasing resources and influence, the public accountability framework for regulators remains largely unchanged.
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