Promises made to cut red tape at COAG business forum – now business groups want action

The Prime Minister has agreed to speed up approvals for big projects and cut regulation but business leaders say they will be watching to ensure the promises are delivered.

The Council of Australia Governments (COAG) Business Advisory Forum in Canberra yesterday which included 26 corporate chiefs, state leaders and the Prime Minister agreed to a six point plan to reduce the costs of regulation.

The six priorities of the regulation review are streamlined environmental assessments, efficiency in major development approvals, better development assessment processes, removal of unnecessary carbon reduction measures and energy market reforms.

Amanda Lynch, deputy chair of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany the council was “very happy” with the Government’s commitment to reducing red tape, in particular the inbuilt timelines and progress reports which were agreed to in order to ensure accountability.

“From our point of view, small business is the largest group of employers in Australia and the greatest issue facing them at this stage is red tape and over regulation which is strangling small business and affecting growth,” says Lynch.

“We want to work with the Government to deliver some outcomes over the next six to 12 months over this area and it is going to require a concerted push to remove red tape.”

“One example of over regulation is small business is an ex officio tax collector in the area of superannuation and a police officer in terms of energy regulation, foreign ownership legislation and asbestos management.”

“Our compliance has increased dramatically at a time when small business is finding it very difficult to make ends meet with a 30% increase in business failures over the last three years.”

Lynch says she believes the forum was “more than a talkfest” and that the promises made would be followed through on.

“We are encouraged by the steps taken yesterday and it is really the start.”

“It was a very important step that small business was at the table as in the past small business has not had a voice and big business is always represented.”

“We will certainly ensure that we do follow through, follow up and make sure that the State and Federal governments know they need to take action on these promises, we will be watching very closely.”

In a joint statement released following the meeting, Peter Anderson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and industry, Stephen Cartwright, chief executive of the New South Wales Business Chamber and James Pearson, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia were also positive about the outcome of the forum.

“The forum identified enough common ground to give the private sector cautious optimism that serious efforts will be made by governments to reduce the adverse impact of economic regulation in the federation, at least in key areas,” the trio said in the statement.

“As attendees at the forum, we are pleased at the good faith shown by governments of all political persuasions, and their acceptance that shortcomings and blockages in the current regulatory reform agenda needed to be addressed with stronger resolve and discipline and in more effective consultation with the private sector.”

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