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Red tape "threat to growth"?

Victor Perton's picture

It is a delight to introduce today the final report from the GAP Congress on Regulatory Affairs: "Opportunities for Business".

It is a delight to introduce today the final report from the GAP Congress on Regulatory Affairs: Opportunities for Business.

On 26 September 2008, it was my pleasure to chair the GAP Congress on Regulatory Affairs: Opportunities for Business, held at Victoria's Parliament House in Melbourne.

If two things characterised the proceedings of the Congress, it would be wisdom and good humour. Discussion was robust, with many different points of view, but everyone shared a positive attitude in working towards the common goal of better regulation. While less was said about regulatory opportunity, the concepts and opportunities have continued to generate conversation and analysis.

We were honoured by Minister Tanner changing his schedule to join us. The Minister's thoughtful address over lunch not only sparked conversation on the day, but raised ideas which have been popping up in conversations I've been having ever since.

Peter Fritz often says at the opening of GAP events, "We are here in the atmosphere of enlightened self-interest", of course self-interest is one of the best motivators there is.

I know of at least three new business ideas which are currently being put in to practice as a result of ideas raised or connections made at the Congress. 

Many public servants have gone back to their departments and are now considering using second track style processes to solve intractable problems. 

Just yesterday I sat down with one of the delegates who has since developed a new strand of their business: inspired that they could help their clients even more by assisting them to become more engaged with regulatory development.

For all of these people I mention who have taken action following the Congress, the day served to illuminate the benefits of adopting a positive attitude towards regulation, understanding it as a help rather than a hindrance.  Whilst there was the odd new convert, for many they were already working within the field but found there were existing business opportunities they had overlooked.

No GAP process is ever complete, the evolution continues.

One of the concrete ideas which came out of the Congress was the need for stronger endorsement and development of second track processes. Toward this the National Consultative Committee on Second Track Processes is being established which will be co-chaired by Malcolm Crompton and myself.

The challenge will be to establish a set of instruments, practices and protocols to encourage organisations and public servants to more fully engage with regulatory processes.

I'm hopeful that the National Consultative Committee on Second Track Processes will have a beneficial influence on Australia's public policy development for years to come.

I'd like to extend a big thank you to Minister Tanner, the sponsors, all of the speakers, session chairs, delegates, and to the team at GAP for organising the event. I give thanks to the Speaker of the Victorian Parliament who made available the Legislative Assembly Chamber.

Open Forum, another GAP initiated project, provides the perfect platform for all the delegates, dispersed as we are across different cities, to re-connect and also interact with a much bigger and broader range of stakeholders who were not present on the day.

I'd encourage you all to read the report and leave your reflections using the space for comment below.  It would also be fantastic to hear more stories about how you have been making the most of regulatory affairs as a business opportunity.

Victor Perton is a company director & advisor, barrister and regulatory affairs advocate. His advisory work focuses on corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, and the regulatory side of communications technology, good regulation and regulatory compliance. Victor is an Independent Director on the Boards of the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), the Bensons Property Group and Austhink Consulting; the Director of the regulatory affairs practice, A Regulatory Affair; and an adviser to MCS Digital. Victor served as Shadow Minister for Technology & Innovation and was the first Australian MP with a website. He chaired the Victorian Government's Multimedia Committee, Data Protection Advisory Council and the Electronic Commerce Framework Group.  Victor is the TAC Director on the Governing Committee of the IT Shared Services venture of the TAC and Workcover. He also has a strong interest in the environment and environmental sustainability having served as Shadow Minister for the Environment.

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survey by Deakin University

An article appearing in My Small Business, "Red Tape threat to Growth" on 10 Dec '08 , demonstrates why this initiative is so important by highlighting how most SMEs still regard regulation as a costly and confusing obstacle their business:

"According to the survey, 80% of small businesses in Australia are concerned about the number of regulations affecting them, with the same level of concern over how they can keep up with them.

According to the study 77% of business owners are concerned with complexity and ease of understanding regulations, while 66% are concerned with the inequality or cost of regulation in proportion to the business. Businesses with less than 10 staff are the most concerned about this issue".

An intelligent step forward, but let's do the rest of it

Congratulations, Victor. Excellent stpe forward.

I worked for some years for a financial institution that had a procedures department. When one procedure was found wanting they introduced another to plug the gap. I pointed out that while there was a department to introduce new procedures there was none to phase out old ones. Nobody took any notice of me until the property market crash in 1990. Then a lot of people started pointing it out.

But the private sector is not alone in its entanglement in red tape. In an article in The Australian Financial Review today, David Crowe writes that:

"The [non-profit] sector is subject to 178 state and federal statutes and reports to 19 government entities as well as 74 other agencies...

"The director of the [Queensland University of Technology] centre for philanthropy and non-profit studies, Myles McGregor-Lowndes, says Queensland charities are subject to 113 different definitions of wages and salaries when they report to the departments that funded them.

"' Red tape has been reduced markedly for business, but non-profits have been left out of the equation,' he says, adding that red tape generates 'horrendous' start-up costs for smaller charieties and therefore discourages individuals and groups from devising new ideas to help the community."

The initiative needs to become a whole-of-goverment one. (Perhaps in New South Wales a differenti initiative is requred as there are currently a number of warring factions but nothing that represents whole-of-government.)

MikeM is roadkill in the wake of the capitalist juggernaut but his voice continues to protest that he is not an individual.