QPC paper shows state gov’t not doing enough to cut red tape (or prevent its application in the first place)

Last September, Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick announced the Queensland Productivity Commission would be rolled into state Treasury, but that doesn’t appear to have happened yet, and before it does the QPC is doing its best to subtly critique the state government’s approach to regulation. Yesterday the QPC released a useful research paper on Improving Regulation, which suggests the state government really hasn’t done much to reduce red tape and has ignored some big opportunities to improve or remove costly regulations.

First, consider the high cost of regulation to the Queensland economy. The QPC observes (on p. 32):

This paper estimates the administration and compliance costs in Queensland at $3.5 to $7 billion per year, based solely on the imposition of state-based regulation.

Of course, you need to consider offsetting benefits of regulation, but, as the QPC observes, with such a high cost there’s probably a lot of scope to improve the quality of regulation and reduce that cost.

The QPC’s frustration with the state government’s lack of action on cutting red tape, and limiting the imposition of new red tape, is obvious to me. But the QPC could make only veiled criticisms of the government in the paper, because after all it’s a government agency. For instance, check out the QPC’s commentary (on p. 27) regarding regulatory impact analysis (RIA):

RIA does not guarantee good regulatory outcomes, but instead provides a structured and transparent process to help achieve that outcome.

Many jurisdictions have experienced challenges in making RIA processes work effectively.

One of the major issues is that RIA is sometimes viewed as a barrier to timely decision-making by policymakers, who may then seek to avoid RIA through the use of exemptions (Box 3.8).

Could one of those “many jurisdictions” include Queensland? Let’s check out Box 3.8, to which the reader is referred to by the QPC:

Since July 2017, 60 regulatory proposals (Bills and proposed regulations) were granted an exemption from the RIA process in Queensland. Around 37 RIS documents were assessed by the Commission in the same period.

The QPC is pointing out Queensland’s RIA process hasn’t worked effectively. What costly regulations have slipped through because they were politically desirable? The QPC could have added some real value here by identifying the worst offenders, but I guess it would have been “courageous”, in Sir Humphrey’s sense, for it to have said much more than it did.

Finally, (on pp. 24-5) the QPC usefully identifies some areas of regulation which, in the QPC’s sanitised public service language, “may benefit from review”:

  • Building and construction regulation,
  • Land use planning and development,
  • Local government regulation,
  • Occupational regulation,
  • Environmental regulation,
  • Tourism and hospitality regulation, and
  • Business establishment and approvals.

That’s a lot of regulation which “may benefit from review”! Come on 1 William St, it’s about time to have a serious look at all the regulations burdening industry.

Please feel free to comment below. Alternatively, you can email comments, questions, suggestions, or hot tips to contact@queenslandeconomywatch.com

1 William St, the Queensland Government’s “Tower of Power”, as viewed from near the City Cat terminal at South Bank, Brisbane. Photo by Jennifer Tunny
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