Second Repeal Day to further unleash nation’s productivity

The Treasury Legislation Amendment (Repeal Day) Bill 2014 is a very important bill given the circumstances Australia now faces. As members before me—the member for Hughes and others—have mentioned in their speeches to this debate, this bill is particularly important given the state of the budget and the state of the debt and deficit left by the previous government.

So impacts on productivity and any measures that we as a government can take to improve productivity in this country need strong support. That is why the members on this side are speaking in support of this bill, which repeals an exorbitant amount of red tape.

We know why this is necessary when we look at the situation that is facing this country—and I think all members need to take this particularly seriously—and even the interest component alone. As we heard from the member for Hughes, around $13.5 billion must be paid each year in interest alone.

When I am out in my community and I talk to people about the fact that we are paying over $1 billion a month in interest as a result of the decisions of the previous Labor government, it is amazing how many people are simply astounded, as they should be, and horrified by that level of debt. With that level of interest and the level of debt and deficit, it was a never-ending spiral with the previous government. It had no responsibility and no concern as to how any of this would ever be repaid.

One billion dollars a month in interest is obscene by anybody’s terms. All of us out in our electorates see so many useful and greatly needed projects that would benefit from that expenditure of $1 billion, which is literally going overseas in interest as a result of the previous government’s decisions.

Looking at business, we see the additional 21,000 new or additional regulations that were imposed by the previous government. When you are out and about in your community visiting small businesses, you might walk into a light industrial area, and that is one of the most common themes that you hear from small business—’We just want to get on with the job that we’re here to do. We’ve invested ourselves. We’ve taken the risk. We just want to get on with the job.’

They are very good small business people, but they have been, and are, overburdened. That is no wonder, with 21,000 new and additional regulations imposed by the previous Labor government. It is no wonder that these repeal days are so important to the country and no wonder that they have been so strongly supported right around industry and small business sectors. They well understand just what an imposition this is on their businesses.

You walk in their doors and see the amount of time that they spend on compliance, away from their customers and away from what they do best—and I am surprised that there are not more speakers to this debate from the other side who understand how important repealing red tape is, particularly for small business in this country and particularly given that over 500,000 people are no longer employed by small business.

Of course the previous government’s decisions imposed such a level of red tape and saw 500,000 people fewer employed as a result of those decisions. Added to that is the $1 billion a month in interest imposed by the previous government. That is a huge burden right across the economy, which is certainly felt in small business.

We have taken a very direct approach to this. We all know that bad regulation and too much regulation compromises productivity—one of the measures we have to assist this country in achieving what it needs to achieve and to improve the budget bottom line. We also know that too much regulation deters investment. As you would know well from your experience as an engineer Madam Deputy Speaker Andrews, it certainly deters investment and innovation in all fields. And it costs jobs. Productivity fell in 2013.

In 2014, Australia ranked 124 out of 148 countries for the burden of government regulation in the World Economic Forum global competitiveness index. That should be a real concern for everyone in this House, including the members on the opposite side. But from the comments that I am hearing it is clearly not of concern to them.

The Productivity Commission has estimated that regulation compliance cost could amount to as much as four per cent of Australia’s GDP. That is an extraordinary amount of GDP spent on compliance.

There are a range of measures—very important measures—that we are taking to minimise and simplify interaction with government. Australians can now use a centralised on-line point of access for government services, including the Australian Taxation Office, Medicare, Centrelink, eHealth records, child support, veterans’ affairs and the NDIS. And over five million people have already created their MyGov account.

With that, and other improvements to services and government access, this community is saving, in general, around $88 million a year in compliance costs. And every cent counts, particularly in small business.

The Australian Taxation Office’s new online return service MyTax will save over 1.4 million taxpayers nearly $160 million a year in compliance costs by pre-populating tax returns. An estimated 447,000 small businesses—the people who invest their own time and money; people who mortgages their houses to get into small business—will benefit from a reduced tax compliance burden arising from changes to GST and PAYG reporting.

Businesses with no GST payable will no longer be required to lodge a business activity statement. If you think of that in a practical sense and you look at small business you will see that these measures will save small businesses an estimated $67 million in red tape.

I will now look at other regulatory obligations and reporting processes. Aged care providers will no longer be required to notify the Department of Social Services of key personnel changes unless the changes significantly or materially affect the providers’ suitability to provide care.

These are all simple, practical measures. When you are out in your electorate talking to these providers, you know that every layer of compliance adds costs and time and takes people away from the jobs that they are actually there to perform—the jobs that they really want to do most.

Builders who tender for Australian government projects will no longer need to be accredited with the Federal Safety Commissioner to undertake single-dwelling residential constructions. It is very important to note that they are still subject to federal and state workplace health and safety laws. Universities—this is something very dear to your heart, Madam Deputy Speaker—are being saved $2.1 million in compliance costs by not being required to complete the Sustainable Research Excellence staff-hours survey.

That is supposed to measure how university researchers balance their time between research and other activities over a two-week period.

These are all just simple, practical measures—one measure after another. One common-sense practical reform is that Australia will accept products, systems and services that are approved overseas under a trusted international standard or risk assessment. And NBN customers can opt not to have battery backups installed in their homes or businesses, as many customers can use their mobile phones or generators during power blackouts. That will save $21.1 million in compliance costs.

There is another reform that I often get questioned about when I am out in the electorate. Registration on the ‘do not call’ register will now be indefinite, saving more than 9.2 million individuals and families from having to re-register their phone and fax numbers. That is something that is unbelievably practical and simple, but was never done by those opposite. It probably required too much common sense.

Australian beef producers exporting to the EU will no longer have to tag their cattle with lime green tail tags for the European Union Cattle Accreditation Scheme, saving farmers around $0.5 million per year. The next reform is an interesting one. The estimated 70,000 new motorcycles sold in Australia each year will no longer require modification to be fitted with an Australian-specific rear mudguard, bringing Australia into line with the UK, France and Germany, and saving an estimated $14.4 million in industry compliance and manufacturing costs.

These measures all sound particularly simple and common sense but they are very important to individual businesses and individual members of our community. We are taking a common-sense approach to regulation, even in what we as a government do, and we are looking at the purpose, cost and impact on productivity of proposed initiatives before regulating. A simple, common-sense approach is certainly what we are about.

The bill amends various laws relating to taxation, superannuation and shareholdings in certain financial sector companies, to implement a range of improvements to Australia’s laws. Schedule 1 amends to Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act to repeal the payslip reporting provisions. These are existing requirements in the Fair Work Act 2009 that require employers to include on payslips the amount of superannuation contributions they are liable to make. The bill will not make any changes to existing requirements.

But Labor had intended that regulations be made so that employers had to report on payslips the amount of super contributions and the date on which the employer expects to pay them. However, they did not deliver these regulations. Removing these provisions reduces unnecessary duplication in the law and provides certainty to employers so that they do not need to be preparing for costly upgrades to the payslip reporting software.

There are a range of measures within the bills. When you walk into small businesses and industry one of the most common issues is that of compliance. I commend the minister and the government for actually having a practical approach to this—the repeal days are actively repealing these types of regulations and are taking a proactive response to it. We have seen the response in the business community. I commend the bill to the House.