The federal government has revealed it will no longer hold twice-yearly red tape repeal days and will instead detail its efforts to reduce red tape in annual reports.
Members of the small business community say the decision makes sense, as long as actual red tape continues to be reduced.
The biannual red tape repeal days were introduced by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott when the Coalition was elected to government in 2013.
The first repeal day was held in March 2014, with 9500 pieces of legislation put on the chopping block.
The repeal days continued through 2015, with the government working to eliminate red tape in areas that directly affect SMEs such as the thresholds for pay-as-you-go tax instalments.
Assistant minister for productivity Peter Hendy explained the change in an opinion article in The Australian, saying while the biannual repeal days have been “useful”, the effectiveness of this approach in the future “will be limited as we’ve now done the major work to clean up the statute books”.
Hendy said replacing the biannual repeal days is part of the government’s “renewed approach to regulatory reform”.
“The government will replace repeal days with annual reports that will assess our performance to date and set a course for reform over the next year,” Hendy said.
“We will build on our commitment to be transparent and accountable to the parliament.”
“Dedicating the time and effort to repeal spent legislation and address housekeeping matters will remain important and I will make sure these incremental improvements continue.”
Hendy said the government has already “improved the systems for regulatory decision-making and has begun to change the culture among decision-makers and regulators to one that recognises regulation and regulatory action is not a costless way to address policy issues”.
He claimed the reforms the government has committed to are expected to cut red tape compliance costs by $4.5 billion a year, which exceeds the annual target of cutting the cost of red tape by $1 billion over its first term.
Hendy said the government’s approach to cutting red tape “won’t just be on compliance cost, it will also be on supporting flexibility in our economy so we encourage innovation to the greatest extent possible”.
“Over the coming months we will consult stakeholders on the regulatory reform priorities important to our economy and how we can deliver those reforms,” he said.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany it makes sense for the government to move to an annual report on red tape reduction activity.
“They started off with two [days] but now they may only need one,” he says.
Strong says finding meaningful ways to reduce red tape for small and medium businesses requires research and if done properly, an annual report could improve the standard of the review.
“There may have been pressure on the public service to find things to put in the [biannual] reports,” he says.
However, Strong says the small business community wants to see actual reductions in red tape and not just the removal of “a few words” from outdated legislation.
Alex Malley, chief executive of CPA Australia, told SmartCompany “what’s most important is that the government remains committed to reducing red tape to help unleash the competitive spirits of our business community, not how they go about it”.
“We continue to support the government’s commitment to seeking $1 billion in red-tape reductions a year,” Malley says.
“Annual reports to the Parliament on progress against that target and setting the red-tape reduction reform agenda for the following year is a good initiative. It will help the community better judge the performance of the government on this key area of micro-economic reform and keep policymakers and departmental officials focused on reducing red tape.”