Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015, Amending Acts 1990 to 1999 Repeal Bill 2015, Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 3) 2015; Second Reading
I relish the opportunity to speak in support of the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015. This is one of a number of such bills to be presented before this parliament, fulfilling a commitment made by the coalition government to reduce red tape. It is worth noting that over the past two years we on this side of the House have repealed over 10,000 legislative instruments and introduced legislation to repeal over 3,600 redundant acts from the Commonwealth books. Certainly this bill is representative of our ongoing commitment to reducing red tape and driving regulatory reform by ensuring that outdated, redundant and duplicative regulation is abolished. The fact of the matter is that allowing obsolete acts to remain in force makes it harder for small businesses, community organisations and ordinary citizens in my electorate of Hasluck to understand the rules and regulations that affect them. Instead of being able to quickly and easily identify these statutes, they often have to sift through outdated, unnecessary and duplicative regulations so as to find out if they still apply.
This omnibus bill alone will amend or repeal legislation across multiple Commonwealth departments, with much of this legislation having remained on the Commonwealth statute books well after fulfilling its purpose. Maintenance is part of every government's responsibility to ensure that the rules of parliament, as agreed to in the past, continue to serve a purpose. As such, this bill seeks to implement a number of non-controversial measures that I call on those opposite to show some bipartisan support for. These measures include abolishing the Medical Training Review Panel, thus getting rid of the overlap between the functions of the Medical Training Review Panel and the National Medical Training Advisory Network. In this instance, members of the Medical Training Review Panel recognised an overlap between their functions and those of the National Medical Training Advisory Network. An aspect of the advisory network's functions is to provide advice on medical workforce planning and medical training plans to inform government, employees and educators. As the member for Eden-Monaro has already pointed out, given this specific focus it was agreed that the advisory network could pick up the panel's annual reporting obligation and the panel's role would cease. Certainly we do not need two bodies doing the same job.
The bill will also repeal the Wool International Act 1993 and the Wool International Privatisation Act 1999 from the agriculture and water resources portfolio. These two specific acts are both redundant because WoolStock Australia Limited was delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange in 2001.
In addition to this, the bill also simplifies approved provider obligations in the area of aged care. As it stands, provisions within the act require approved providers to notify the Department of Health of changes in fundamental personnel within 28 days. In cases where an employee leaves and is replaced by another, this would mean multiple notifications to the department even if the changes did not affect the quality of service or care. Unnecessary regulations can be a hindrance—the department receives in the order of 10,000 notifications from aged-care providers each year. I would like to make it clear that, despite these amendments, the Aged Care Act 1997 will still require approved providers to notify the department of changes in circumstances that affect their suitability to provide care. In fact, they provide the scope to reduce the unnecessary notification regime without undermining the quality of care. These measures will reduce compliance costs for businesses and community organisations who are approved aged-care providers. The Department of Health has estimated that this will lead to an annual saving that equates to $1.16 million in compliance costs.
The omnibus bill will also repeal part 3 of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991, which establishes the Fishing Industry Policy Council. The reason for this? The council has not convened since the legislation was passed in 1991. In the case of this particular act, exactly the same consultation and advice functions that the council was supposed to provide have been fulfilled by other working groups and committees. This bill will also amend various acts in the communications and arts portfolio where duplication has occurred. The Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, the Radiocommunications Act 1992 and the Telecommunications Act 1997 will all be amended to repeal duplication. Clearly, these are simple but sensible and necessary changes.
Interestingly enough, some weeks ago the member for Rankin stood in this very chamber rubbishing this bill and the ones preceding, unhappy with the significant savings they have provided the Australian taxpayer. That kind of attitude is clearly indicative of the tax-and-spend mentality of those sitting opposite. I would like to remind the member for Rankin that any saving is money that does not need to come out of the pay packets of hard-working Australian families, including those in my electorate of Hasluck. Yes, it may be true that the financial impact of this particular bill is relatively low, but let us be clear that a dollar not spent by this government is a dollar saved for the people of Australia and the people of my electorate. A dollar not spent by this government is a dollar which can be used to pay down the record debt and deficit gifted to the Australian people courtesy of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years of financial chaos.
I need to remind the House that, when we came into power a little over two years ago, the projected 10-year deficit Labor left us was $667 billion. Let's ask ourselves what $667 billion could buy the people of Australia? It could pay for new hospitals, such as the new St John of God Hospital in my electorate of Hasluck for a start. It could also pay for countless infrastructure projects, such as the recently opened Gateway WA, a $1 billion road project in my electorate that has dramatically improved transport links to the eastern suburbs. Of course, under members opposite, these projects would have cost more. We only have to look at Labor's track record to prove this. If the opposition has a plan for how to tackle this debt, other than shaking their magic money tree, then I am sure the people of Australia would love to hear it.
The details so thoroughly provided by the member for Rankin do not tell the full story. The fact of the matter is that we on this side have reduced the cost of complying with unnecessary red tape and regulation by $4.5 billion, and we are just getting started. It is worth noting that that figure is well beyond the cumulative $3 billion target the government committed to at the last election.
Savings aside, repealing unnecessary regulatory red tape also means less time spent by individuals and businesses filling out forms and seeking advice, and less hard-earned revenue spent on building systems and on purchasing equipment to meet the regulatory requirements of the government.
On this point, our efforts are being globally recognised. In the last two years, we have climbed from 128th to 80th in the World Economic Forum ranking of countries based on the burden of government regulation, and we want to do even better. As I have previously mentioned, proper housekeeping is part of every government's responsibility—to ensure that the rules the parliament agreed to in the past continue to remain fit for purpose.
Australians are a clever and industrious people living in a land of opportunity. We live at the epicentre of world growth. Indeed, the rise of India and China have helped power our economy to 24 years of uninterrupted growth. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. We can all see growing stresses in Australia's economy, not least in my home state of Western Australia. Most obviously, terms of trade have fallen by over 30 per cent since their peak in 2011, driven by lower prices for oil, iron and coal. Certainly, this is forcing some difficult adjustments in our economy and in my own electorate of Hasluck.
Over the longer term, and like many other countries, our demographics are also slowly changing. Today, with a population of just over 23 million, there are four to five working-age people for every person in retirement. By mid-century, this is expected to fall to fewer than three to one. That means there will be more pressure on our aged-care services, more pressure on pensions and a need for a large social welfare net, but fewer people to deliver and pay for them.
At the end of the day, it is productivity growth that drives sustainable improvement in our living standards. Taking an innovative approach means that our citizens can work smarter, not harder, and still increase our national income. Indeed, the Turnbull government possesses an ambitious policy agenda to drive productivity growth now and into the future. We are having open and frank conversations to see what we can do better. We are reforming how some services are delivered and ending unnecessary state-federal duplication. We are strengthening the security of our financial system.
A key part of our economic policy is regulatory reform. Inefficient and ineffective regulation puts up costs for businesses and brings down our economy. Not only do we want to reduce the cost of complying with regulation but, where regulation is actually necessary, we want to make sure it is designed in the most effective way possible. This will produce regulation that is fit for purpose and easy to comply with. It will also change the way we think about regulation so that it is not seen as a costless way to address policy issues.
That is why it absolutely galls me to witness members opposite dismissing a saving of over $56 million to the Australian people. I certainly have not been inundated by demands from my constituents asking for more regulation, and I doubt those opposite have either! The fact is that every dollar we save by cutting unnecessary red tape is a dollar saved by the Australian people, including the people of Hasluck. I will not stand here today and be lectured by Labor about fiscal management and savings, especially in light of the debt-and-deficit disaster we inherited from them in 2010.
As I have already said, when we took government, Labor's only legacy to the Australian people was $667 billion of financial chaos. With that in mind, it is thoughtless of the member for Rankin to criticise any sort of saving, let alone one to the tune of $56 million. Unlike Labor, we on this side of the House are absolutely committed to ensuring a safe and secure future for every Australian. This means taking a responsible, rational hand to fiscal management.
With that said, I call on members opposite to show their support for the omnibus bill and its non-controversial measures. It will help remove redundant and unnecessary legislation that has outlived its purpose. Importantly, it is part of the coalition's ongoing commitment to reduce red tape, something we have certainly achieved a great deal of in a little over two years. I commend the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill to the House.