Senate debates

Monday, 2 March 2015



10:16 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Tonight I wish to talk about freedom and red tape. But before I talk about freedom I wish to pay tribute to the good and hardy souls of Central Queensland, not to mention those in the Northern Territory, who were recently lashed by cyclones. While all in this chamber are relieved at the minimal injuries and that there was no loss of life, hundreds of homes were destroyed not to mention countless businesses and farms.

Queensland is a violent weather state. It has always been so and, ignoring the hokey-pokey from the Greens and others about climate change, we will always have tough weather north of the Tweed. Indeed, one of my first memories as a young boy is of hiding with my family in the bathroom on our farm as a cyclone passed overhead.

To the young people in Rockhampton and the Northern Territory who experienced the cyclones, with the first of the many strong weather systems that they will experience throughout their lives, and to all those working on the recovery, we thank you for your endurance and stamina. It will be many weeks and months, if not years, before Central Queensland fully recovers from the cyclones.

But onwards to freedom. I think many will know I am passionate about freedom—freedom of the individual, freedom of the family, freedom of business and freedom from the interfering nannying bosses of government. The great schism in this chamber and indeed in this parliament, if not in society, is the outlier on where people stand and deliver on the freedom agenda.

The Left claim to believe in freedom but only when it is about the freedom of government and bureaucrats to interfere. Under the Left, the government is always free but the people are enslaved and enveloped by the government's actions. Like biker bouncers at an outlaw biker club, they reject all but their own. One of the greatest tests of freedom is the approach to red and green tape. It is probably not the sexiest issue around but one of the most important issues in determining the freedom of individuals, businesses and families.

Those opposite, senators in the Labor Party and the Greens Party, think that the world's problems can be solved through regulation, through words on a page and through the use of government to suppress the freedom of individuals and enterprises.

However, as a defender of freedom, I take a very different view. Since entering this place, I have spoken on several occasions of my commitment to monitor government action in relation to red and green tape and to report back to the people of Queensland on this important issue each year.

Tonight I would like to discuss some of the promising steps that have been taken to slash red and green tape and to highlight some areas for continuous improvement.

The red-tape reduction agenda of this coalition government has been one of its great success stories. So far, following two designated repeal days and a cohesive whole-of-government focus on red-tape reduction, this government has removed over 10,000 pieces of redundant legislation and 50,000 pages of regulation. These historic changes have already delivered savings of over $2 billion in lower compliance costs for Australian businesses and workers.

This government—my government, our government—has also announced more than 400 measures to cut red tape across the board, from environment to education, health to human services, Treasury to trade. Some of these measures are far reaching. Let us start with the biggest one: the repeal of the Labor-Greens carbon tax, the largest carbon tax anywhere in the world! This reduction in red tape has seen electricity prices across Australia fall significantly, reducing the cost of living for families.

Then there is the one-stop-shop for environmental approvals that will unleash billions of dollars in additional investment at a critical time when our economy is rebalancing away from the mining sector. Others are smaller but no less significant. We have removed the need for motorcycles in Australia to be retrofitted with rear mudguards, affecting 70,000 new motorcycles every year, saving $14 million and bringing us into line with other comparable countries, such as the United Kingdom.

We have designed new livestock identification processes so that farmers will no longer have to place little green tags on the tails of cattle exported to Europe.    And commercial property agents will no longer need to pay up to $13,000 for a Building Energy Efficiency Certificate—whatever that is—before they are allowed to engage in negotiations with a prospective buyer or lessee.

These are all examples of this coalition government's changes, making a real difference in communities across Australia. And the good news is: this is just the start of delivering on the coalition's election promise to reduce red tape by $1 billion every year.

As a backbench senator, I see one of my roles as that of ensuring the government keeps on delivering. I was disappointed and concerned to see that, last Wednesday, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry released its annual red-tape survey. These results make for rather sober reading. Despite the successes of the coalition government in delivering on its agenda, only one per cent of businesses surveyed thought the burden of regulation was lower than 12 months ago, 24 per cent of businesses surveyed thought the burden of regulation was about the same, while a whopping 73 per cent businesses surveyed thought the burden of regulation was higher So there is a lot more to be done in terms of reducing red tape and communicating to the business community about what we are achieving.

To ensure that I am doing my bit, I have started a local campaign on the Sunshine Coast, where my office is based. The Sunshine Coast is a hotbed of small businesses. There are over 30,000 registered small businesses on the Sunshine Coast, each making a valuable contribution not just to the Sunshine Coast economy but to the whole Queensland economy. In October last year, I surveyed the local business community across the Sunshine Coast about their concerns and a number of consistent themes have emerged so far, including the complexity of our taxation system, the onerous nature of employment and workplace relations law and the attitude of government to boosting infrastructure investment.

I am happy to say that several weeks ago I hosted Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, along with my Liberal National Party colleague Senator Matt Canavan and the Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson at a business breakfast roundtable at the Maroochy Surf Club. Here the business community rammed home what they wanted to see from the federal government in terms of delivering on that infrastructure, on reducing the complexity of the taxation system and making it easier to employ people. There were over 70 representatives from the local businesses there which for the Sunshine Coast is a pretty big turnout for a breakfast. We have a lot more to do, because choosing to go into business is pretty tough at the moment, because it allows the businesses to decide to exercise their freedom. And the role of government is to be on the side of business, not to be on the side of bureaucracy and on the side of red tape. As policymakers, we should endeavour to make it as easy as possible for businesses to thrive and grow, to create jobs for their families and communities, and to deliver the goods and services that Australians want.

On a final point, I would like to thank Clare Siddins from my office who has been working on this red tape report with me. She is expecting her second baby tomorrow and I wish her the best of luck. She is due back at work in a couple of weeks time, so thank you and good luck, Clare.

Senate adjourned at 22 : 24