Regulatory reform key to lifting productivity

06 December 2012

Boosting productivity is key to securing Australias economic future. Its how we will make the most of the opportunities ahead in the Asian century and how we will be able to prosper.
Productivity isnt about working harder, its about working smarter. Its about investing in skills and education so all Australians can achieve their full potential. Its about having the infrastructure in place so we can have better transport, better telecommunications, better services. Its about boosting innovation so we can be industry leaders and world leaders and about having a modern and competitive tax system. And its about reducing the regulatory burden cutting red tape so its easier to do business.
Skills and education, innovation, infrastructure, tax, and regulation; these are the five pillars of productivity which will enable Australia to succeed in the Asian century.
The Business Advisory Forum being held in Canberra today is focused on streamlining regulation; enabling business to do business more easily and to cut the time-consuming and costly burden of red tape.
The Forum is a unique opportunity for direct and open discussion between business and governments, with 21 business representatives meeting with the Prime Minister and First Ministers to talk about issues facing the business sector and discuss possible solutions.
Because delivering regulatory reform demands more than glib lines and throwing around random numbers. Its not about finger pointing and blaming others, and it can't be my way or the highway.
Regulatory reform involves painstakingly detailed work. And it requires political will. It requires extensive consultation and discussion with stakeholders to ensure the best outcome. And it means looking at the bigger picture, and thinking about Australias national productivity, not state by state or sector by sector.
If we are to maximise national productivity we must work together. And that's what the Business Advisory Forum is about.
While there are many demands for investments to lift Australias productivity, the Governments capacity to respond is finite, even more so in todays tight fiscal environment.
But when it comes to regulatory reform, we can make a substantial contribution to productivity. And the investment needed is not financial capital, but political capital.
The investment is in sitting at the table and participating in the discussion to find solutions. The investment is in negotiating - with business and with governments to find ways to effectively reduce the burden on business.
In 2008, COAG agreed to the Seamless National Economy reform agenda. This involved 27 reforms to harmonise legislation across states and territories, and have consistent regulations and less duplication. Already, 17 have been implemented.
We now see Standard Business Reporting where businesses are now able to complete and lodge government forms more easily, saving time and money. We have national health professionals registration and accreditation arrangements, meaning health practitioners only have to register and pay once to practice around Australia. We have a consumer policy framework, protecting all Australian consumers and businesses, no matter where they are, under one law, and a national business names register. And there is still more to do.
At both the Business Advisory Forum meeting today and at COAG tomorrow, the Government is continuing discussions with states and territories and business to implement the remaining reforms.
From a purely economic view, the Productivity Commission estimated 17 of the reforms under the Seamless National Economy agenda would save business $4 billion a year and the productivity gains would increase gross domestic product by more than $6 billion in the long term.
From a practical point of view, these reforms mean that business will have more streamlined regulations. They can save time and money and they can get on with doing what they do best.
It means business will be more efficient, more productive, more competitive.
This is a key part of our plan for success in the Asian century and to securing our economic future.