Red Tape Challenge unlikely to hit Australia

The Australian Federal Government says it is unlikely to adopt an initiative like the Red Tape Challenge, a high profile blitz on regulation that has just been rolled out in the UK.


The UK Government’s new Red Tape Challenge website gives Britain’s business owners and entrepreneurs the chance to comment on government regulations.


The website will publish all UK business legislation on a sector-by-sector basis, and visitors to the site will be able to voice their opinion as to whether the regulation is helpful or not.


There is also a section on general regulations, which affects all industries, and feedback will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, although no specific timeframe has been set.


The UK government says it will use visitors’ feedback to decide which regulations to keep and which to get rid of, and also which pieces of legislation can be simplified.


“Every few weeks, we’re publishing the regulations affecting one specific sector or industry – from retail to hospitality to construction,” the UK Cabinet Office says.


“Throughout the process, we’re publishing the general regulations that cut across all sectors – from rules on equality to those on employment. All these regulations will be open for your comments.”


Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, says he likes the fact that the website is specifically targeted at businesspeople.


“That seems to be the interesting thing – if they keep it for businesspeople only, it will prove more useful,” Strong says.


“A special website where people can go and given an example of red tape or suggestions – that’s a great idea.”


Strong says the site puts a “human face” on small businesses, arguing that is not the case in Australia, and isn’t concerned the site will be abused by ill-meaning people.


“That fact that people are being asked [their opinion] will make them go away and think about it… For every stupid idea, there’ll be 30 good ones,” he says.


However, a spokesperson for Small Business Minister Nick Sherry says it is unlikely the Government would consider unrolling an initiative like the Red Tape Challenge, pointing to the Government’s other deregulation efforts.


She says the Government is in the process of developing its Seamless National Economy initiatives though the Council of Australian Governments.


The Seamless National Economy is an agreement by all Australian governments to deliver more consistent, better regulation across Australia, and reduce compliance costs on business, restrictions on competition, and distortions in the allocation of resources across the country.


According to the spokesperson, there are 27 deregulatory reforms currently passing through COAG, with the Government planning to undertake a consultation period after the Federal Budget is announced next month.


“There is going to be consultation across business and [government] departments, and a callout for any reforms regarding red tape,” she says.


The spokesperson says the reforms will address everything from OHS to payroll tax, and government will also strive to make it easier for businesses to operate across state boarders.


“It doesn’t sound as exciting as the Red Tape Challenge but I assume it has similar ideas to what we’re trying to achieve in the deregulation space,” she says.


Senator Scott Ryan, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Fair Competition, says: “Minister Sherry’s recent self-lauding about the removal of redundant regulations completely misses the point of the regulatory burden facing small business.”

“Labor has categorically failed to keep the ‘one in, one out’ election promise for new regulations that it was elected on in 2007 and needs to look at all sensible measures to address the massive and growing red tape burden holding back small business in Australia.”


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