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Bill, Omnibus Repeal Day, (Spring), 2014

 I am very pleased to rise today to speak on this bill, which I and I think many others in this House today believe is important to constituents Australia-wide who seek to reduce the burden and cost of regulation—and that is all of us, including those opposite, I am sure. The Omnibus Repeal Day (Spring 2014) Bill 2014 is a whole-of-government initiative to amend and repeal legislation in a number of areas.

Today we have heard the other side say there is no value in this bill. I say they have not looked very hard to find that value. If they had done so, they would have noticed a whole raft of amendments. The bill deals with generally benign measures—yes, we agree with that—in order to reduce the regulatory imposition on business, individuals and the community sector, but there are many other, more substantive matters as well. The repeal will make regulation easily accessible, meaning business, individuals and community organisations can spend more time doing what is important for them and less time trawling through regulation and some of its more ridiculous demands.

The omnibus bill deals with a wide range of legislation, in many cases repealing legislation which is no longer relevant, in approximately nine areas. We have seen amendments in the areas of agriculture, immigration and border protection, industry, Treasury, veterans' affairs—even the Prime Minister and Cabinet area gets a haircut. I have a particular focus and objective in recognising and assisting small business to reduce costs and the regulatory burden and to increase efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. We all know that, when small business is not focused on regulation, it can spend more time on business itself.

This government is determined to be a smaller, less interfering government, and this latest reduction in red tape is moving us all in the right direction, especially for the business community. The government does not run small businesses. It has a responsibility to provide the right legislative environment to help improve the business community, not be a hindrance, not be a blocker but be an enabler.

I would like to focus a little on some of the improvements for the small business sector, and it is pleasing to see the Minister for Communications sitting in the House today, because communications is one area I would like to focus on. Schedule 2 will amend legislation in the communications portfolio to streamline statutory consultation and publication requirements and repeal spent provisions. Part 1 deals with the provisions in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 that are redundant now and say that the SBS undertakes television production and supply previously undertaken by the National Indigenous Television Ltd Part 2 will deal with provisions in the communications portfolio requiring rule makers to consult before making certain legislative instruments. This is all very sensible and noncontroversial. Simply, there is a reduced requirement to consult, impacting small business in the communications sector and removing a requirement for ACMA to publish notices in the Gazette; rather, they may use their website, making notification quicker for entities and speeding things up, thereby creating efficiencies and reducing costs.

Now let us have a quick look at the environment. The schedule will repeal and amend provisions in the acts administered in the environment portfolio, making technical amendments to streamline regulatory arrangements. Two items which will reduce the burden for small business are as follows: removing the requirement for duplicate approvals when moving hazardous waste through Australia—hardly rats and mice, I would say—and enabling information relating to the export of hazardous waste to be published on a website rather than the onerous, old-fashioned paper publication requirement. This will remove a compliance burden for hazardous waste exporters. Other items will ensure hazardous waste permit processing can be done more efficiently, reducing the cost to business.

With respect to social services, a notable change is the lower reporting requirements for aged-care providers. This will be extremely well received and is welcome.

A little bit about Durack: we all know that small business is the engine room of the Australian economy, and I am committed to reducing red tape in the sector. The Productivity Commission released in its report in 2013 some commentary on small business that is worth repeating here today:

Small businesses feel the burden of regulation more strongly than other businesses. Almost universally, their lack of staff, time and resources present challenges in understanding and fulfilling compliance obligations.

… … …

Australian studies have found that small businesses spend, on average, up to 5 hours per week on compliance with government regulatory requirements and deal with an average of six regulators per year.

The omnibus bill will have a positive impact on more than 13,500 small businesses in my electorate of Durack which includes the Kimberley, the Pilbara, Gascoyne, the Midwest and the northern wheat belt. Do not forget, many businesses in remote and regional areas of Durack are owner operated, one-person shows. Most of the towns in Durack have commerce or small business organisations and wherever I go in my massive electorate the message is always the same: 'Get rid of the compliance; get rid of the impediments. Help us make ends meet and get customers coming through the doors.' I met with small business organisations recently in Moora and Merredin; and also with John Lally, CEO of Karratha District Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Rob Jefferies, CEO of the Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and Geoff Herbert, President of the Onslow Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They are all concerned with the current requirements on small business and look forward to a reduction of unnecessary red tape.

It is absolutely essential to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia; we have heard that a lot. It is essential to strengthen our rural and regional communities, which of course is our policy. Today we are working at removing nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation and regulation as part of this spring repeal day.

To finish off, here are a couple of quotes from people who have an interest in this matter. The CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia, Deidre Willmott, who is well known in government circles and well informed on the burden on business of overregulation, says:

Western Australian business owners are amongst the cleverest people going around, with a track record of world leading innovation. However, their ability to compete and succeed on a global scale is being hampered by the amount of time and energy they need to spend navigating convoluted, time consuming regulatory processes across multiple layers of government.

And one last quote from Reg Howard-Smith, who is the Chief Executive of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, who agrees:

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia welcomes the Federal Government's attempts to repeal unnecessary red-tape and duplication.

In particular the resources sector urges all parliamentarians to support the one-stop-shop proposal for environmental approvals.

Despite concerns raised by environmental lobby groups, the one-stop-shop will not see a 'watering down' of environmental standards.

As someone who has worked in the mining industry for many years and has firsthand experience in navigating the torturous environmental approvals battlefield, I believe anything we as a government can do to reduce time frames and get projects off the ground is good for us all. I commend this bill to the House.


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