Henry
Thornton writes:


The Business
Council Australia yesterday released an unflattering scorecard of Australia’s regulatory burden with
BCA Chief Executive Katie Lahey saying that “there is a real risk that reform
promises will fall over unless governments and their agencies act swiftly and
decisively to implement the specific commitments
made.”

The BCA release,
entitled Regulatory Reform: A Scorecard to Measure
Australia’s Progress
, argues that government commitments, most notably the Rethinking
Regulation
report, have been admirable, but the real problem lies in implementation of the
suggested reforms.

According to the
BCA press release, “The BCA’s overall assessment is that governments have
acknowledged the problems and have gone some way towards agreeing on systemic
improvements to how regulations are made”, however “the BCA was particularly
concerned that reform would stall – or fall captive to short-term electoral
considerations – unless significant headway was made prior to the end of
2006.”

While we all have
our own stories of how over-regulation has cost us time/money/effort, Henry’s
favourite instance was exhibited in the Oz article, A
federal state of recalcitrance.
The article outlines the costs to the rail industry of disorganised
bureaucracy: “when the Indian
Pacific starts its twice-weekly service from Sydney to Perth, it has to make preparations as though it
were travelling through eight countries. On board is 345kg of equipment in the
form of eight radios to enable the driver to communicate in different parts of
the country.” 345 kgs of radio!

The rail is not
the only industry suffering – “Writing of a simple mortgage requires reference
to no less than ten separate pieces of commonwealth legislation and national
regulation, plus seven separate state fair trading acts,” said Westpac chief
executive David Morgan.

Reform in
politician-speak often means to complicate, as in the 1600 pages of IR reforms.
To be fair, Henry celebrated
last week
upon news of Peter Costello’s decision to give the chop to over 4000 pages of
“inoperative” tax law and make various simplifications to the operative parts;
let’s hope they follow through in all industries.

More reading at
Henry Thornton.

Peter Fray

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