House debates

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

7:31 pm

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015, the Amending Acts 1990 to 1999 Repeal Bill 2015 and the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 3) 2015. These bills were introduced as part of the fourth so-called red tape repeal day in the life of this government.

How far it has come from the former Prime Minister giving the ministerial statement, in early 2014, to a packed chamber, trumpeting and boasting about the government's repeal efforts, with debate to follow, a week later, with multiple members from the government benches all standing up to copy the Prime Minister's boasting and trumpeting about the imagined commitment of this government to so-called red-tape removal. There was even a gag motion put forward in association with this first repeal day in 2014 but it, actually, prevented government members from talking about red tape. Now, we have the ministerial statement being given by the third parliamentary secretary—now they are called assistant ministers—looking after deregulation policy.

The three bills being debated today, combined, contain a claimed $6.9 million in deregulatory savings. It is the second-lowest amount of deregulatory savings contained in a set of these bills that have been brought forward by this government. When the government talks about its $4.5 billion figure in deregulatory savings it is clear that the legislation introduced on these repeal days have not contributed much to them at all. In fact, the four sets of repeal day bills have a combined $63.6 million in deregulatory savings. Out of the $4.5 billion claimed figure, that is 1.4 per cent of the total amount.

Before going to the bills being debated today, I want to touch, briefly, on this total figure being claimed as deregulatory savings. As far as we can tell, it still includes nearly $200 million through the original plan to water down consumer protections as part of the Future of Financial Advice Reforms. The government, of course, has now abandoned its original plan and, with our support, minor technical amendments to the Future of Financial Advice reforms have been made that are in line with the original intent of our reforms. The figure seems to include, still, some $5 million that is claimed through the abolition of the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines, resulting in the pay of cleaners being cut—despite the former Prime Minister saying the opposite in the parliament. Cutting cleaners' pay, under the guise of removing red tape, says a lot about this government, which is why Labor, if elected, will reinstate the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines.

According to the government's document, there are $2.1 billion in new deregulatory savings since the last of these repeal days earlier this year. The overwhelming majority are not being debated today. This includes nearly $520 million claimed through changes to the renewable energy target, $300 million claimed through enhancing communication through digital disclosure—business will be able to provide disclosures through digital means to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission—$187 million claimed through the two-speed letter-delivery service of Australia Post, $109 million claimed through the upgrade of the Australian Taxation Office's online services—providing individuals and sole traders with more options—and $21.4 million claimed through the government's proposal to reform Australia's shipping industry, which the shadow minister for infrastructure and transport has described as being Work Choices on water.

There is a new measure that was introduced in another piece of legislation: $2.8 million in deregulatory savings in the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Spring Repeal Day) Bill 2015. In there is a measure that winds back penalties for employers who fail to correctly pay super on time to their employees. To call this red tape, again, shows this government's priorities on superannuation after it abolished the low-income superannuation contribution and delayed the increase to the superannuation guarantee. Australians are losing $2.6 billion a year in unpaid super—that is, employers who are not correctly paying the superannuation they should be paying to their employees—yet this government wants to wind back the penalties on employers who do not pay up.

I turn to the bills being debated today and will, first, deal with the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015. In this bill, out of a total of 37 measures, only four have deregulatory savings attached, totalling $6.2 million. A majority of the measures have no deregulatory savings attached to them. For example, in the Agriculture portfolio, there is the repeal of an advisory body, the Fishing Industry Policy Council, which has never actually met since the legislation that established it was enacted in 1991. So it is hard to imagine how there will be any deregulatory savings associated with that repeal. In the Finance portfolio, there is the repeal of seven old appropriations acts from the 2012-13 financial year and eight old appropriations acts from the 2013-14 financial year. Given these financial years have come and gone, these acts can be repealed. Again, it is difficult to imagine that there are any actual deregulatory savings associated with those repeals. In the Industry, Innovation and Science portfolio, the repeal of the Patents Amendment (Patent Cooperation Treaty) Act 1979 is to be found. This act amended the Patents Act 1952. As an amending act, it became spent as soon as it amended the principal act. Further, the principal act was repealed in 1990 and replaced by the Patents Act 1990, so the bill is getting rid of a piece of legislation that had ceased to have any practical effect for decades. Again, it is difficult to imagine that there are any deregulatory savings associated with that repeal.

There are even some recycled provisions from an old omnibus repeal bill that has not passed the parliament yet. The Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2014) Bill 2014 has not passed because the government will not accept our amendments in relation to the Future Submarine project tender process around whether the successful tenderer would give an undertaking that the building, maintenance and sustainment of the submarines would take place in Australia, with the majority of the work on the build undertaken by Australian labour and the majority of the materials used sourced from Australian suppliers. As further examples, there is the Patents Amendment (Patent Cooperation Treaty) Act 1979 repeal, amending the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012, the repeal of the Papua and New Guinea Loan (International Bank) Act 1970 and the repeal of the Customs (Tariff Concession System Validations) Act 1999. These were all in the spring 2014 omnibus repeal bill. In total, there are actually 19 measures—over half—that have been recycled from the spring 2014 bill. So far from creating any real new reform or new repeal measures, we have a government that is resorting to recycling old alleged reforms or old alleged repeal measures.

There are four measures that, as I said, do have deregulatory savings attached, and two of these are recycled measures. First, I would mention the repeal of section 19AD of the Health Insurance Act 1973 that removes the requirement for a five-yearly review of the operation of the Medicare provider number legislation. There have been no issues and no unintended consequences found in the previous reviews, and so the legislative requirement is deemed to be no longer required. This has a mighty sum of some $3,000 in deregulatory savings attached. Second, there is the repeal of the requirement to use administrator/adviser panels to assist approved aged-care providers under sanction. Other guidelines exist that put restrictions on who can be appointed an administrator/adviser, and so this requirement is deemed also to be no longer required. This has the slightly more impressive sum of some $5 million in deregulatory savings attached. Third, there is the amendment of approved provider obligations for an approved provider of aged care to notify the secretary of changes to any of its key personnel. The requirement would be where the change would materially affect the provider's suitability to be a provider of aged care. This has some $1.2 million claimed in deregulatory savings attached, but, importantly, this too is a recycled measure from the spring 2014 bill. Fourth, and last, there are amendments to the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 that would allow a person to disclose or further use or record protected information that has been disclosed to them for the purpose of research, statistical analysis or policy development where it is consistent with the purpose of the initial disclosure. Given that the information has been already disclosed to them, there is no need for a public interest certificate process or to seek a further decision from the secretary in order to further disclose the information. This measure has the, again, mighty sum of some $5,000 in deregulatory savings, but, just like the third measure with deregulatory savings, this too is a recycled measure from the spring 2014 bill. So, out of the $6.2 million of claimed deregulatory savings, $1.2 million are from recycled measures.

Notably, there is a section in this bill that makes a series of amendments to Commonwealth legislation to recognise the fact that there is self-government in the Australian Capital Territory. I am sure that is something that the member for Fraser, who is sitting with me in the chamber, will be pleased to hear being recognised.

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fraser, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

While some modifications were incorporated into relevant Commonwealth acts at the time, some were not. The amendments in this bill are intended to make the remaining modifications to fully ensure that Commonwealth laws are applied in an appropriate manner to the Australian Capital Territory following the Australian Capital Territory's move to self-government, which occurred, of course, in 1988.

While, for the most part, the measures in this bill are not contentious—and I have been describing what is, in truth, the very minor nature of most of the measures that are dealt with in this bill—I do have to indicate to the House that Labor also has some concerns about some of the measures that are contained in this bill. In particular, we have some concerns with the measure in the Communications portfolio that would remove consultation requirements for the Australian Communications and Media Authority. In the Agriculture portfolio there are some concerns with the move to abolish the National Rural Advisory Council. I understand that the shadow minister for agriculture will have something to say about this later in the debate. And in the Environment portfolio, Labor has some concerns with some of the proposed amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, particularly the amendments relating to assessment documentation and requirements to publish particular decisions.

Since being passed by the Howard government 15 years ago, the EPBC Act has been the overriding national environmental protection law, and since being elected this coalition government has made numerous attempts to weaken the EPBC Act. Right now there is before the parliament another bill which is seeking to repeal the general standing requirements that have been part of this act—the EPBC Act—since it was enacted by the Howard government. It is an absolutely retrograde measure. It demonstrates that the coalition government is not to be trusted on any matter to do with the environment—and particularly, it is not to be trusted on any matter to do with environmental protection. This is why Labor express concern, and we would express concerns about anything this coalition government was attempting to do to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. While we will always support common-sense improvements to our environmental regulatory system, such as the streamlining of assessment processes and the removal of errors and elements that might lead to unintended impacts, what we will not do is support the weakening of environmental protections. Nor will we support reducing transparency and, in particular, as I have just mentioned, we will not be supporting any limitations on the right of the Australian community to challenge government environmental decisions.

As a consequence of the concerns that I have just outlined in relation to the measure in the Communications portfolio, the move in the Agriculture portfolio to abolish the National Rural Advisory Council and the proposed amendments to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Labor will be referring the omnibus repeal bill to the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for hearings, an inquiry and a report to enable a working through of the issues and concerns that we have.

I turn to the second of the three bills that are before the House, the second of those bills being the Amending Acts 1990 to 1999 Repeal Bill. In this bill there is the repeal of 877 acts of parliament. Consistent with the trumpeting and the braggadocio of the former Prime Minister's repeal day extravaganza, which is now being continued with this amending acts repeal bill, this is the fourth and latest instalment of this kind of act that repeals old pieces of legislation. This latest instalment builds on the first bill, which repealed legislation from 1901 to 1969; the second bill, which repealed amending acts passed between 1970 and 1979; and the third bill, which repealed amending acts passed between 1980 and 1989. In this bill we come to the repeal of Howard government legislation in the latter part, being amending acts passed between 1996 and 1999. In total, including this fourth bill, this series of amending acts repeal bills would repeal a total of 3,523 acts of the Australian parliament. It might seem a marvellously impressive measure in itself, but you have to look at what these acts actually are, and I cannot believe that the government is persisting with this pretence that it is engaging in real legislative activity.

These acts are amendment acts. I have said this about every one of these bills that have come before the parliament: once the amendment to the principle act occurs, the amendment act has done its job and it ceases to have effect. In many of cases of the amending acts that are here being repealed, the principle acts themselves have already been repealed. To give a couple of examples: in the latest amending act bill, there is the repeal of the Overseas Students Charge Amendment Act 1989, which amended the Overseas Students Charge Act 1979. The principle act has already been repealed. It was repealed in 1999. Another example is the repeal of the Poultry Industry Assistance Amendment Act 1992, which amended the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965. Again, the principle act has already been repealed. It was repealed in 1996.

The explanatory memorandum to this bill, like the previous three amending acts repeal bills that we have been forced to deal with, states:

In all cases, the repeal of the Acts will not substantially alter existing arrangements or make any change to the substance of the law.

It actually makes no change to the substance of the law. The Acts Interpretation Act makes it absolutely crystal clear that as soon as the amending act does its work—that is, on proclamation—and it changes the wording of the act that it is amending, that is it. It ceases to have effect. It is a dead letter. So what we are again engaged with—and we are now up to this mighty number of 3,523 amending acts that are to be repealed—is the repeal of dead letters.

If it were suggested that somehow they are being made to completely disappear, that is not right either. Even after these acts have been repealed, they will remain available anyway on digital databases like ComLaw as public records. So we are being asked to engage in a legislative act which has no legal effect whatsoever. Well you might ask: why has the government wasted the time of the parliament with this nonsense of an activity? It was so that the former Prime Minister could say on the first repeal day, ridiculously, that they were going to repeal 1,000 acts of parliament. In order to get to that, they could not actually find 1,000 acts of parliament that could usefully be repealed, so they found amending acts that had ceased to have effect but were actually still listed in the government's statute book and said, 'We'll repeal them.' What an absurd activity. What a waste of this parliament's time, just for show for the former Prime Minister. But, regrettably, the government—because it is the same government—is continuing with this charade of an exercise.

The government has claimed that some $600,000 in deregulatory savings are to be attributed to these repeals. I would suggest that that is a laughably inflated figure. It is not actually possible to discern how there could be any saving from repealing something from the Australian statute book that has not had effect for many years. And, I say again, it was solely to pamper the ego of the former Prime Minister, but apparently there is still someone left in this government who thinks this is an exercise worth engaging in.

The third bill is the Statute Law Revision Bill (No. 3) 2015. This bill is the government's latest round in its war on punctuation—again, bundling up statute law revision bills that have been part of the ordinary work of this parliament since the 1930s. In most years since the 1930s this parliament has passed a statute law revision bill that tidies up the statute book—corrects punctuation and removes spelling mistakes, removes unnecessary headings and does a range of other things. In most years we have seen a bill such as this, just like the House of Commons in the United Kingdom has passed a statute law revision bill since around the 1860s. It is part of the ordinary work of a parliament. Of course it is something we should do. I congratulate, as I have every time a state law revision bill has come before this parliament, the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for the excellent work it does in making sure our statute books read as well as they might by tidying up these kinds of errors. But this kind of bill should not be dressed up as part of some mighty war on red tape that this government pretends it is engaged in.

We have seen in some of these previous statute law revision bills that the government insists on bundling up with its repeal day exercises what the government has gotten up to previously—changing 'e-mail' to 'email' and changing 'facsimile' to 'fax'—

Dr Leigh interjecting

You can just imagine, as the member for Fraser interjects, the immense boost to productivity that is going to be occurring because of this correction of spelling. We have seen the removal of 40 hyphens, two commas and one inverted comma and changing two full stops to semicolons and one semicolon to a full stop, and inserting one full stop, one colon, one hyphen and one comma. In this bill, disappointingly, there is only one comma inserted.

This bill makes a series of technical amendments and corrections which, like all the previous statute law revision bills that have been introduced as part of these repeal days, do not make any change to the substance of the law, according to the explanatory memorandum to the bill. There are cross-referencing fixes, removals of redundant definitions, and spelling changes—all important and necessary to do, but very, very routine, which is why I congratulate the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for the excellent work it does. It is a bit thankless. It is tedious work. But it does need to be done. But let's not inflate it to having a significance that it does not bear.

Across 140 pieces of legislation, there is the bulk change from 'is guilty of' to 'commits', which, according to the explanatory memorandum, is being done to modernise language in line with current drafting practice. And across 52 pieces of legislation there are other changes to similar phrases that essentially replace 'guilty' with commit'. Also, in 12 locations across eight pieces of legislation there is a change from 'reference base' to 'index reference period'. I am sure the member for Fraser would understand what that means, but I would have to go and look it up. This appears to be a continuation from a very similar set of amendments that was contained in a previous statute law revision bill—and, again, being done to modernise language in accordance with current drafting practice. There is also the repeal of five sections and one clause across five pieces of legislation due to these provisions being spent and redundant—important housekeeping, yes, but far from real regulatory reform.

The government has attributed $50,000 in deregulatory savings to this bill. It is the lowest amount of deregulatory savings that the government has attributed to any of the statute law revision bills to date. And I would be intrigued to see how even that sum has been calculated. These repeal day bills have been very far from the mark when it comes to the government's deregulatory agenda. When Labor was in government, as a matter of the ordinary work of every Commonwealth government we repealed over 16,000 acts and legislative instruments—16,794, to be precise—and achieved cuts in costs to business of $4 billion a year through the Seamless National Economy reforms. It was done without too much noise or fanfare, because it is not something that should be accompanied by too much noise or fanfare. Every modern government in every developed economy understands that unnecessary regulation is to be avoided. Everybody, all governments, understand the importance of removing unnecessary regulatory burdens. But of course to simply condemn all regulation—or what appears to be the starting point of this government all too often, which is one of condemning all regulation—entirely misses the point. Governments exist in order to serve their communities in part by making laws, in part by passing regulations, because one of the ways in which governments exercise power on behalf of the communities they govern is by passing laws and making regulations.

So, in every case, it is not simply a matter of saying, 'We're sweeping away that regulation', and that must by definition be a good thing. In every case it is necessary to examine what the purpose of the regulation or legislation was when it was introduced, whether that purpose is still needed and what the effect will be of repealing this legislation and these regulations that are being held up for examination or suggested for being repealed.

Earlier in this speech I gave some egregious examples of some of the things this government has tried to do under the guise of red tape removal. Chief among them was the cutting of cleaners' pay—a startling thing for the government to do—which was achieved through the abolition of the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines. Its effect was to cut cleaners' pay, despite the former Prime Minister asserting the opposite in parliament. It was a shameful thing to have done, but it is a very good example of why we should always closely examine the things that this government puts forward as a supposedly beneficial elimination of red tape to make sure that they are not trying, with their sweeping repeals, to sneak through something that is useful to the community and serves the community well.

These repeal days—and we are now enduring the fourth group of bills—are really nothing more than what should be treated as the ordinary routine business of government. Let's hope that we have seen an end to the trumpeting and boasting associated with an ordinary activity of government.

8:01 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It was interesting to listen to the member for Isaacs' contribution to this debate. Yes, a large part of these bills does have to do with housekeeping. But he made a couple of interesting comments about the environment, taxes, governments reducing regulation and pay being cut that I might touch on prior to making some further comments on the bills.

The Minister for the Environment, in a speech last week, gave a very good outline of the history of the involvement of the conservative side of politics in the environment and protecting the environment. It would be worthwhile, for the edification of the House—and the member for Isaacs, if he cares to hang around for a little bit—to reflect on some of those things.

Dr Leigh interjecting

I see the member for Fraser is here. He is contributing to the debate as usual, so I will take that as meaning that at least the member for Fraser is interested in the environment.

Under the Menzies government Australia was one of the 12 original parties to the Antarctic Treaty. The McMahon government appointed Australia's first federal environment minister: Peter Howson. Howson led a delegation to the inaugural United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. Under the Fraser government we saw Uluru, Kakadu and Christmas Island all declared national parks, and the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu received World Heritage listing. Under the Howard government we saw federal legislation to enshrine the protection of the environment in law. We also saw the introduction of the mandatory renewable energy target in 2000, as well as other activities in that space. So I think it is well worth acknowledging in this House that coalition governments have a great track record in protecting and looking after our environment, with a view to leaving it in better shape for future generations.

The member for Isaacs touched on deregulation and the supposed efforts of the previous government. I am always amazed at their ability to rewrite history. In his contribution to the House, the member for Isaacs seems to have conveniently forgotten the impact on the Australian economy of the carbon tax, the mining tax and other increases in the regulatory burden. From memory, I believe the previous government introduced in the order of 21,000 new regulations. So they cannot come in here and say that they are pristine, snow-white evangelists for deregulation, because the track record of those opposite in six years of government is the complete and utter opposite.

I am pleased to rise in support of the omnibus repeal day bills—and the fourth red tape repeal day—as a whole-of-government initiative to amend or repeal legislation that is not the subject of individual stand-alone bills. This omnibus bill will amend or repeal legislation across 14 Commonwealth departments, many of which are spent, redundant or have remained on the Commonwealth's statute book beyond fulfilling their purpose. Excessive and unnecessary regulation reduces productivity and investment. It supresses job creation, creates economic uncertainty and has a negative impact on consumer and investor confidence. Reducing regulation represents enormous opportunities to improve Australia's productivity and competitiveness.

In 2013 the government made a commitment to reduce red tape by $1 billion annually. I am pleased to say that we have exceeded this red tape reduction target. Over the two and a bit years of government, we have reduced red tape by around $4.5 billion compared to our target of $3 billion over three years. We have repealed over 3,600 spent and redundant acts and more than 10,000 legislative instruments from the Commonwealth books—and, yes, many of those are no longer relevant and spent, but we have got them out of the system. What this equates to is less time required by individuals and businesses to fill out forms and seek external advice and less hard-earned revenue spent on systems and equipment to meet the regulatory requirements of government. This will improve our nation's economy, create more jobs and lower costs for businesses and households.

The government has not only reduced the cost of red tape and regulation; but, importantly, going forward, we have improved systems for regulatory decision-making and begun to change the culture of decision-makers and regulators to one that recognises the burden that is imposed by regulations and the way that they are administered. All cabinet submissions are now accompanied by an analysis of the regulatory cost and benefits, and we have changed the way that we approach regulation so that it is not seen as a costless way to address policy issues. We also now have a regulator performance framework for Commonwealth regulators.

We have achieved a great deal in the past two years, but it is important to recognise that there is still much to be done. Part of that focus is to expand the regulatory reform agenda. Regulatory reform should do more than just reduce compliant costs; it needs to support flexibility in our economy so that we encourage innovation to the greatest possible extent. Now is the time to continue and update that agenda. The government is making sure that regulatory reforms put the needs of business and the broader community first, by: removing regulatory obstacles that can stifle competition and new technologies; continually reviewing ongoing regulations to ensure that they remain fit for purpose; working with states, territories and local governments to maximise the reform potential across the country; and ensuring, where regulation is necessary, that it is designed the best way possible, so that it is fit for purpose and easy to comply with.

Bad regulation costs more than time and money; it impacts on our economy. We have seen the difficulty with the pace of change in our economy and, consequently, the capacity of our regulatory regimes to adapt to those changing conditions. A good example of this is digital disruptors like Uber and the rise of online retailing. Regulatory barriers can also hinder competition and the market forces that push firms to innovate and perform at their best. In an age of rapid technology change, we simply cannot set and forget when it comes to our regulatory framework.

The agenda of the omnibus repeal day places a renewed focus on reform. The key change is that we will expand the regulation reform agenda to have a new stream that will focus on reforms that enhance productivity and innovation. At the same time, we will keep removing unnecessary and ineffective red tape. Over the coming months, the government will consult with stakeholders and industry representatives to determine: the major productivity-enhancing regulatory reform priorities, how to strengthen the focus on productivity-enhancing reforms while still reducing red tape, and how to engage better with states and territories to revitalise productive reforms. Following these consultations, the government will outline what regulatory reforms we will pursue under the new agenda—key areas to further reduce red tape reduction and areas of regulatory review so that our regulations remain fit-for-purpose—as well as the course to deliver these reforms.

Since the last repeal day, the government have announced a number of significant measures. We have made the tax system more efficient by developing new ways to make our tax system easier to comply with. The introduction of myDeductions, which allows individuals to record their deductions using their phone, is a case in point. We are also enhancing ATO online services for individuals and sole traders. We have also introduced a single permit for costal shipping. We are committed to implementing a single permit system for coastal shipping to build a more competitive and efficient shipping industry. It is interesting to note that the number of Australian registered ships had fallen from 30 in 2006 to 15 in 2014. With a 63 per cent decline in the capacity of the fleet since 2011, the cost of freight for some operators has increased by over 60 per cent. That is why, on 25 June 2015, the government introduced the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 to make shipping more competitive and efficient.

I will use a local example: one of the businesses in the electorate of Forde gets their powdered milk product from Victoria. Their biggest international competitor, based in Singapore, also gets their powdered milk product from Victoria, yet it is cheaper for that competitor based in Singapore to ship their powdered milk product from Melbourne to Singapore than it is for the business in my electorate to ship the product from Melbourne to Brisbane. Surely, those inefficiencies cannot be supported and maintained in an open, global economic environment. The bill I have just mentioned will implement major reforms to the regulation of coastal shipping by replacing the current three-tiered licensing system with a single permit. It is hoped that this bill will enhance access for Australian manufacturers and primary producers to cheaper, more reliable shipping services and make our products more competitive and internationally and domestically.

Another significant measure is the change to give businesses freedom to communicate digitally by making it easier for financial service businesses to communicate important information to consumers. Consumer preferences are changing, with ever-increasing numbers of people transacting digitally. This is why we will allow product disclosure statements to be delivered to consumers digitally unless the consumer opts out. This will, again, reduce the costs of printing and mailing for businesses, while preserving choice for consumers.

The new regulatory reform agenda is about building on the culture we have embedded across the public service of looking at the benefits and costs of regulation and continual regulatory review to ensure that our regulatory frameworks remain fit for purpose. Overall, the new regulatory reform agenda is an ambitious policy agenda that includes: looking at every aspect of our tax system; reforming our Federation to improve service delivery, particularly in health and education; competition reform; and strengthening the security of our financial system.

The Harper review recommended that all Australian governments review regulations, including local government regulations, in their jurisdictions to ensure that unnecessary restrictions on competition are removed. This new regulatory reform agenda supports the recommendations in the Harper review. I commend this bill to the House.

8:15 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I speak in relation to the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015. This bill is another of the government's self-styled repeal day bills. This one was introduced together with the amending legislation and statute law revision, and all I can say is, 'Here we go again: another repeal day—another day when the government expects a pat on the back for performing the everyday work of government.' It is quite shameless, really. This is the fourth repeal day since the election of the Abbott-Turnbull government. The member for Warringah had three, and this is the member for Wentworth's first. Same horse, different jockey.

Once again, most of the measures in the bill are relatively non-controversial. Out of the 37 measures in the bill, four have already been identified and they have the whopping saving of $6.2 million. I heard some of those speakers opposite talk about the fact that there are billions of dollars in savings, and we hear that every single time they talk about this. But when you examine the legislation, look at the explanatory memorandum and see what is actually happening, it is a very different situation.

I last spoke on one of these puffed-up repeal day bills on 14 September this year, just 11 weeks ago. That was the Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2015) Bill 2015. That bill had a grand total of $41.4 million in savings and, as I said, this bill has a total of $6.2 million—not billion; million—in savings. This is the second lowest amount of deregulatory savings contained in any of the four sets of repeal bills presented by this government. When you add them all together and you look at what it actually says, it is $63.6 million in deregulatory savings. That is not insignificant, but it is not the $4.5 billion the government pronounces.

A quick calculation shows that the $63.6 million in savings from the four sets of repeal day bills accounts for just 1.4 per cent of the $4.5 billion total. Perhaps we should get rid of this omnibus repeal day bill nonsense this government keeps talking about. Where is the flash and fury? We see savings of $6.2 million. Glancing way into the future, I wonder what the autumn 2016 repeal day bill will do. Will it crack a million dollars, or give enough for a couple of pizzas? We just do not know. It is becoming less and less as they go.

The first repeal day bill was announced by the former Prime Minister, the member for Warringah, with a ministerial statement to a packed chamber. It was debated that same week, and the member for Wentworth—now the Prime Minster—even spoke during the second reading of that first repeal day bill. Flash forward to today and these bills are now introduced by an assistant minister responsible for deregulation policy, entirely without fanfare. These announcements, it would appear, seem as humdrum as the measures in the bill.

Each time I have spoken on a repeal day bill, I have always taken a few moments to remind the government and the chamber, and the public who might be listening, that, over nearly six years in office, Labor repealed 16,794 spent and redundant acts, regulations and legislative instruments. We cut costs to business by $4 billion per year. We worked to minimise and simplify existing acts. We worked to create cost-effective legislation. We corrected spelling and punctuation. We removed duplicate paragraphs and we amended tables of content. We did this, mostly, up in the Federation Chamber, and I do not recall too many members of the Liberal and National parties actually speaking too often. We also worked through the COAG process to bring about the seamless national economy reforms.

Those opposite exult in these self-aggrandising repeal day bills. Let us have a look at what they have done. When I spoke in September on the last repeal day, I said that there were a number of blockbuster measures. Let us pick a few of those measures to have a look at a rural theme. They repealed the Honey Export Charge Amendment Act 1980, the Apple and Pear Export Charge Amendment Act 1981, the Dried Fruits Levy Amendment Act 1984, the Dried Sultana Production Underwriting Amendment Act 1985 and the Laying Chicken Levy Amendment Act 1989. None of these bills will affect a single Australian farmer—not one. None of them have deregulatory savings attached—zero. There are no deregulatory savings whatsoever. The last bill repealed the Primary Industry Councils Act 1991, even though the last council was established under that act in 1993 and none exist now.

Back to this bill: in the Finance portfolio, we have 15 old appropriations acts repealed from previous financial years with no deregulatory savings attached whatsoever. We have an amendment to the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Act 1997, subsequent to the repeal of the Rural Adjustment Act 1992. These amendments include groundbreaking work to change punctuation and headings. It is a shame the Prime Minister has abolished knights and dames, because surely the heroic punctuation changes to the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Act 1997 warrant a knighthood for the person who drafted the legislation!

It is groundhog day. For example, we have seen the repeal of the Skilling Australia's Workforce Act 2005, which was originally in that spring bill that I referred to. We have seen amendments to the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012. I want to talk about that particular amendment, because it is important. Amendments to the stronger futures act removed the minister's power to request the Northern Territory minister to appoint an assessor to conduct an assessment in relation to licensed premises in certain circumstances. The federal minister cannot actually enforce such a request. The Northern Territory minister and the Northern Territory authorities have responsibility for monitoring and regulating activities in such premises and, given the Commonwealth minister for Indigenous affairs cannot enforce such a request, the powers have limited impact. We agree; the government should get rid of it.

But the amendments also make some other changes. The amendments also remove the requirement for the minister to cause an independent review of the last three years of the operation of the act. I thought, 'Where have I seen that before?' It was mentioned last time.

In 2014-15, the government, in collaboration with the Northern Territory government, undertook a formal review of the Stronger Futures agreement. In light of that, they think this particular provision is unnecessary and duplicative—and we agree. It is interesting, because the government decided that there was a requirement that they had to fulfil. They could not get the legislation through last time, so they had to make an administrative change. We found out in Senate estimates what actually happened. They undertook an administrative review, and that is all they did. We did not seek to repeal the review. It did not happen within the legislative time frame required, but they had to do it because it was in the legislation. Guess what they did? They engaged the law firm MinterEllison to do this. They requested a quote and MinterEllison was selected through a procurement process for that review. The government engaged MinterEllison to do a desktop review of the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012.

Being a dutiful shadow minister, I decided to have a look at this review, entitled Independent review of the effectiveness of Northern Territory and Commonwealth laws in reducing alcohol-related harm. I thought, 'Where have I seen all this stuff before?' It turns out that a couple of the lawyers at a desk in MinterEllison decided to have a look at this, at a cost to taxpayers of $11,000, and guess what? There was a House of Representatives inquiry, chaired by the member for Murray, Dr Sharman Stone. The deputy chair was the member for Lingiari, and I was also a member of that inquiry. We travelled all over the countryside and we handed down a bipartisan report, tabled in this place on 25 June this year, called Alcohol, hurting people and harming communities. At the request of the government, with $11,000 of taxpayers' money, MinterEllison decided to have a look at that parliamentary report and at a few bits of legislation. They produced a bit of a summary of the legislation and had a look at the report and made a couple of comments. In the end, they said nothing much about what happened. Their review states:

… we have concluded from the materials considered that alcohol misuse has and continues to cause considerable harm to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, we have been unable to determine with any precision whether there has been a reduction, or otherwise, in alcohol-related harm to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

Good grief—what a revelation! We had a parliamentary inquiry which looked at it. They say they are unable to do it. Well, they are sitting at their desks reviewing it at a cost to the taxpayer of $11,000. Further, they state:

This has restricted our ability to assess the effectiveness of the laws, but we conclude that the scheme established by the Liquor Act and provisions of the Stronger Futures Act provide an effective framework for the regulation of supply of alcohol in the Northern Territory, and that regulation of supply is a necessary but not sufficient means (in and of itself) of addressing alcohol misuse that causes harm to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

…      …   …

(a)   We have not identified any particular aspects of the laws that may be amended to increase their effectiveness in reducing alcohol-related harm. Nor have we been able to conclude that any of the laws, but, more particularly, the provisions of the Stronger Futures Act, should be repealed.

The government were so incompetent that they could not get the legislation through last time. Under the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act, there was a requirement to do a review. A parliamentary inquiry produced a bipartisan report. The government then commissioned these lawyers, at a cost of $11,000, to sit there at their desks and do this review, because the government were so incompetent that they could not get the amendments through last time. They come in here and say, 'We are going to get rid of the legislation this time' in relation to the review that has already taken place, and they admit in Senate estimates that the whole purpose of the review was to fulfil the legislative requirements of administrative review, which they are not intending to act on. The minister has not even responded to the parliamentary inquiry report that was handed down on 25 June this year.

In Senate estimates the officials said they anticipated tabling the government's response by 3 December, which is the last sitting day, before Christmas. So I say to the government: do not come in here and give lectures when you are so incompetent that you cannot get your legislation through. You wasted $11,000 of taxpayers' money. Any first year law student could have done this. I am not having a go at the lawyers personally. They are a competent law firm—there is no doubt about that whatsoever—with competent lawyers, but they should not have had to do it at the cost of $11,000 to the taxpayer. I made this point in a press release I sent on 23 October 2015, in which I state:

Senate Estimates further revealed that more than $11,000 was spent on an independent review of the effectiveness of Commonwealth and Northern Territory alcohol laws—but not to achieve any particular outcome other than to satisfy a legislative requirement.

In fact, the review, required under the NT Stronger Futures legislation, was conducted in such a short time frame that it relied almost solely on a report from—

the House of Representatives inquiry I talked about—

into alcohol abuse in Indigenous communities.

Under questioning—

in Senate estimates—

Department officials revealed that the $11,000 review was not conducted for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not the alcohol laws were effective.

They have the gall to come in here and tell us they are saving billions of dollars, when, under the legislation which they are now amending because they were so incompetent they could not get it through last time, they are wasting taxpayers' dollars, and they were not even responding to the bipartisan parliamentary report of the inquiry chaired by Dr Sharman Stone, the member for Murray. How incompetent is this government? What a mockery they are making of this particular legislation when you have a look at what they have done in this area.

In relation to aged-care, the other part of my portfolio, they have made some reasonable suggestions, and we agree with them, so we support them. We will support them on this stuff because they have already had a review, and they did not need it. If they had been competent, they would have got it through in first place. It is important for people to note that, to receive care, an aged-care recipient must be appraised through an ACAT assessment and classified based on their care needs. A number of providers can provide information to the department. The secretary of the department can suspend approved providers who do those assessments and appraisals if false and misleading information is provided. The amendment here removes the need for the secretary to approve an adviser but provides for restrictions on who an adviser can be, and that is set out in the Classification Principles 2014. They have made some other changes, which remove panels of appraisers and the need for the secretary to approve the advisers. In future, that will be set out in the Sanctions Principles 2014, which we agreed to. That saves $5 million of the $6.2 million. (Time expired)

8:30 pm

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Inefficient regulation costs more than time and money. It makes our economy less agile and hinders competition and innovation. Allowing spent and redundant acts or provisions to remain in force on the Commonwealth's statute bo   oks does not serve any purpose. It only makes it more difficult for businesses, community organisations, families and individuals to find out about the regulations that really matter to them. Even worse, outdated and irrelevant laws and regulations make lawbreakers out of decent hard-working people.

I congratulate the assistant minister, the member for Eden-Monaro, because the regulatory cost savings achieved by this Omnibus Repeal Bill are likely to be around $6.17 million, while cost savings for the Amending Acts 1990 to 1999 Repeal Bill will result in deregulatory savings of about $600,000 per year and the Statute Law Revision Bill will result in regulatory cost savings of about $50,000 per year. Sometimes the best thing we can do to make more services more affordable and more accessible for more of those who need it is for government to actually do less.

The coalition government's regulatory reform agenda has been a success. While the regulatory savings in these bills are relatively modest, in a cumulative sense, this bill goes some way to chipping away at the mountain of red tape Labor left in its wake, and it is consistent with the coalition's commitment to red tape reduction by $l billion a year. Clearly, the business community has good reason to celebrate the coalition's record in cutting red tape. In our first two years, for example, we have already achieved more than double our election commitment target—with almost $4.5 billion in red tape savings.

To date and subject to the passage of legislation through parliament, this government has taken decisions to repeal more than 10,000 legislative instruments and around 2,700 Acts of Parliament. For every $1 added to the cost of regulation, the government has made decisions that cut more than $11. These bills are part of the government's efforts to clean up the Commonwealth's statute books. Collectively, these three Repeal Day Bills will repeal more than 900 Commonwealth Acts—making it easier for users of Commonwealth legislation to find and access regulations.

Law-abiding citizens should not have to sift through outdated and unnecessary Commonwealth legislation to determine whether certain regulations still apply. As examples, the Wool International Act 1993 and the Wool International Privatisation Act 1999 are no longer needed, because Woolstock Australia Limited was wound up and delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange in 2001—14 years ago. It also makes sense to wind up the Medical Training Review Panel and simplify approved provider obligations in the area of aged care because the National Medical Training Advisory Network now provides advice on medical workforce planning and medical training plans to inform government, employers and educators. We do not need two bodies to do the same job. The Aged Care Act 1997 will still require approved providers to notify the department of changes in circumstances that materially affects the provider's suitability to provide care. Doing the same thing twice—only to satisfy two different processes—just adds unnecessary cost to the government and provider, which, of course, is then passed onto the taxpayer and the consumer.

Part 3 of the Fisheries Administration Act 1991, which established the Fishing Industry Policy Council, is no longer needed. The council has not convened since it was enacted in 1991—more than 24 years ago—and its functions are now fulfilled by other working groups and committees. The Statistical Bureau (Tasmania) Act 1924 has served its purpose as well. Similarly, the Papua and New Guinea Loan (International Bank) Act 1970 can be repealed because the loan has been repaid in full.

Labor's six years on this side of the House—hard labour for those who must clean up after it—were like a policy of scorched earth for the Australian economy. If no action was taken on Labor's reckless spending commitments, within a decade our interest repayments would have been $3 billion a month. I know that those opposite find it difficult to understand, but excessive red tape does detract from productivity and ultimately lowers the standard of living for all Australians. Bad regulation costs more than just time and money—it is a drag on our economy. Regulatory barriers can also hinder competition and the market forces that push firms to innovate and perform at their best.

When looking at the big challenges facing the Australian government, it is generally a very good idea to first have a look at the legacy of previous governments. In this context, it is worth recalling that, when the Rudd-Gillard government came to office, Labor inherited a surplus of $20 billion with no net debt and $45 billion in the bank. When the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government left office six years' later, it left in its wake 200,000 more unemployed, gross debt projected to rise to $667 billion, $123 billion in cumulative deficits, the world's biggest carbon tax and a mountain of job-destroying red and green tape. Clearly, there was a need to rein in Labor's debt and do whatever we could to grow the economy and create jobs. This government has improved systems for regulatory decision making, with all cabinet submissions now accompanied by an analysis of the regulatory cost and benefit.

In an age of rapid technologically-driven change, we simply cannot 'set and forget' when it comes to rules and regulations. We have changed the way we approach regulation so that it is not seen as a costless way to address policy issues. Here today, with the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015, we are again sweeping away more dead and fossilised red tape and uncluttering the Commonwealth's statute books while making other laws more efficient and more productive. In our first two years we have already achieved more than double our election commitment target, with almost $4.5 billion in red tape savings. I congratulate the government on beating our red tape cost saving target by $2.5 billion in just over two years.

I acknowledge that at the table in the House this evening we have the Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, who in his first role in this parliament was chairman of the red tape reduction committee. In that role he spearheaded the attack on red tape, the attack on unnecessary legislation. The minister, the member for Kooyong, of course played a vital role in initiating what we see before us—$4.5 billion in red tape savings in under three years. It is all very well for those on the other side to detract from what we are achieving, but what did they do? They had time to reduce this regulation, they had time to wipe off our books the unnecessary regulations and bills that have accumulated over the years. They stand here and detract from what we have achieved, and yet they did nothing. They just added to the problem.

I congratulate the member for Kooyong and the member for Eden-Monaro on the work they have done, and I acknowledge the role of the member for Pearce. Red tape reduction goes to the heart of supporting businesses in our community; it goes to the heart particularly of supporting small businesses. I know from having had my own business that the worst thing I had to do was wade through the myriad of regulation and red tape that confronted me all the time. As I said earlier, it has turned honest, law-abiding, hardworking small business people into lawbreakers, because it is so difficult to put up with the regulation, with the red and green tape, that small businesses are confronted with on a day-to-day basis. Ministers like the member for Kooyong and the member for Eden-Monaro have taken away that myriad of tape that has strangled small business, and I congratulate them for saving almost $4.5 billion in just a few years.

8:41 pm

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As the member for Ryan said, this saving of $4.5 billion is an important part of what this government is about. Those of us who have worked in regional areas, particularly in small business, know just how important the issue of red tape is. It is one of the most common issues we are faced with as members of parliament. When we see the omnibus repeal day legislation, we understand how important every small measure of red tape reduction is. Repeatedly when I am out in my community talking to small business it is the one thing that I hear most about.

As members are aware, the issue for so many businesses, be they small businesses, medium-sized businesses or even major industries, is the layering of local government red tape that they have to face. I hear about issues of compliance more than anything else, and these issues often relate to the combination of state government and federal government requirements. There is layer upon layer. I know it is an issue even in the earthmoving sector. I had a recent conversation with a businessman in my electorate, and he said his product was worth $18 a tonne but before he even puts one of his earthmoving shovels in the ground it is costing him $4 in compliance. When you consider that, you can understand how the constant repeal of red tape has a massive impact. I have been part of several inquiries on both red and green tape, and the issue has been the layer upon layer of regulation—the amount of time it takes and the cost to business and industry is exorbitant. Every time we as a government repeal legislation it is a good day for business and industry in Australia. That is why I am pleased to support the Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill.

8:44 pm

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

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.

8:57 pm

Photo of Wyatt RoyWyatt Roy (Longman, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

We on this side of the House in the Liberal Party come to this place with a very strong conviction—a very simple idea but a very strong conviction: we believe that our society and our economy prosper when we remove government from our lives. We do not believe that the great creators of wealth and prosperity in this country are the Public Service or the government sitting here in Canberra; we believe that the great creators of prosperity and economic activity in our country are Australians who are prepared to have a go, take on some risk and drive the entrepreneurial spirit in our country.

The Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2015) Bill 2015 and cognate bills—and this is becoming quite routine in this House—seek to remove laws, something very novel for our country. We often say that we are the wealth of all wisdom in this country and we are going to impose new laws and new regulations on the Australian people. Instead, with these repeal bills, we are removing regulation. We are freeing up our society and freeing up our businesses so they can go out and do what they do so well.

And we have really exceeded our target. Our target was about a billion dollars a year, and already we have achieved red-tape reductions of $4.5 billion over two years, which is a very significant achievement

We have removed 3,600 spent and redundant acts and more than 10,000 legislative mechanisms. This is a very significant achievement. The former assistant minister, Josh Frydenberg, has left the chamber, but I want to commend him and Peter Hendy, the new minister, on their incredible work. I commend these bills to the House.

Debate adjourned.