On live export
Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Australia knowingly trades in animal cruelty” (yesterday).
Dr Lynn Simpson makes a powerful case as she condemns the current regulatory arrangements that fail to provide any meaningful welfare protection to live animals exported from this country. She notes “regulatory capture” and “toothless tiger regulators”, finishing with a demand for an “independent” regulator. I have no particular knowledge of that industry, but her description of  regulatory failure does not surprise me at all. Anyone who has paid attention over the years will have seen many such reports across many industries. Crikey has reported on the failings of the various financial industry regulators, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and so on ad nauseam. In my own career I spent several years working for an Australian federal agency whose official purpose was to regulate a major hazard industry. I resigned when I despaired of it ever becoming more than a pale shadow of an effective regulator.
It appears that Australian federal and state governments are generally incapable of creating or maintaining effective independent regulators. It would, I believe, be instructive to find out why. An inquiry might include in its remit:
  • Do governments, despite what they say, really want such agencies to be independent and effective regulators?
  • Do governments and regulators generally accept the concept of “regulatory capture” and try to avoid it?
  • Can there be “light touch” regulation or “partnership” between the regulated and regulator without regulatory capture?
  • Is there any practical difference between “self-regulation” and no regulation?
To save waiting for such an inquiry to present its report, in summary the answers are: No; No; No; and No. This may be related to a phenomenon resembling regulatory capture, but far more dangerous and insidious, which we might call “political capture”: ministers and political parties placing their cosy relationship with powerful external bodies before consideration of the national or public interest.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey