Budget Review 2020–21 Index
This year’s budget contained a number of measures in support
of the Government’s ongoing program to revise Australia’s regulatory
arrangements. These follow on a similar program of measures announced in the New
Deregulation Agenda forming part of the 2019–20 Mid-Year Economic and
Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO).
The term ‘deregulation’ implies removing regulations—which
is certainly an element—but the program has a broader focus of decreasing the
regulatory compliance burden on industry through: repealing regulations that
are no longer considered necessary; streamlining and harmonising regulations across
jurisdictions; and (a major feature of many measures) maximising the use of
This brief outlines the scope of the combined Budget 2020–21
measures as well as the context of previous announcements and implementation.
It notes that the times are challenging for the more than sixty Australian
government agencies with regulatory functions, with the need to bring
together the deregulation agenda, complex new technologies and implement the
lessons from a number of reports into regulatory failures.
2020 Budget measures
The main element is the cross portfolio JobMaker—Deregulation
package, providing $92.1 million over four years (Budget
Measures: Budget Paper No.2 2021–22, p. 62). The package includes:
- $40.4 million over ten years from 2020–21 (including $24.6
million over four years from 2020–21) to build IT infrastructure to support a
new Australian Carbon Credit Units exchange trading platform and streamline the
Clean Energy Regulator’s IT systems
- $18.5 million over four years to streamline approval processes
into a single application across jurisdictions, allowing for faster
establishment of new early childhood education and care businesses, and
employment of their staff
- $17.9 million over three years to modernise the Therapeutic Goods
Administration business systems to streamline processes for the medicines and
medical devices industry (costs to be met from within the existing Department
of Health budget)
- $7.2 million over four years to streamline the agricultural levy
- $0.2 million in 2020–21 to remove the requirement for eligible
supplementary and vocational education and training courses to be registered on
the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (costs
to be met from within the existing Department of Education, Skills and
$1.8 million over two years to trial a series of regulatory
reporting reductions for Australian businesses
- $2.0 million over two years from 2020–21 to improve the
accountability and transparency of regulator performance, build regulator
capability, share best practice and drive a culture of regulator excellence;
and an additional $6.4 million over three years from 2020–21 to upskill and
further build the capability of regulators, with an initial focus on agricultural
export regulators to improve the delivery of services and
- $13.4 million over two years from 2020–21 to continue funding the
Deregulation Taskforce to support and deliver the National Deregulation Agenda.
There are three further JobMaker packages that include deregulation
agenda measures including: ‘busting congestion for agricultural exporters’ (p. 50),
the ‘simplified trade System’ (p. 109), and the Digital Business Plan (p. 64),
plus a measure providing additional funding for ‘maintaining the timeliness of
the environmental assessment process’ (p. 51) (see separate Budget Review brief
Initiatives prior to the Budget
These budget measures represent the latest elements of the
government’s broader deregulation agenda, which was set out in a speech
by Ben Morton, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on 2 October 2020.
Noting that ‘good regulation is critical to making Australia
one of the best countries in the world to live, and ensuring Australia has a
well-functioning economy, society, environment, and democracy’ he argues that deregulation
is about ‘getting rid of unnecessary, disproportionate, and inefficiently
implemented regulation.’ The Government is therefore targeting ‘bad regulation’
- duplicative, requiring businesses to provide similar information
to multiple regulators
- hard to find or understand
- results in unnecessarily inconsistent requirements across or
- slow and costly to navigate, or
requires paper-based forms or outdated technology to comply
Some elements of this agenda are of relatively longer
standing. The Government claims that the ‘Cutting Red tape’ initiative resulted
in savings of $5.8bn in red tape (Budget
paper no.2 , p.44) while the Office of Best Practice Review (OBPR),
formerly in Treasury but subsequently moved to the Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet, is charged with analysing proposed regulation and the
system of Regulatory
In July 2019, the Government established the Deregulation
Taskforce tasked with ‘ensuring that, where regulation is required, it is
implemented with the lightest touch—that it is designed and applied in the most
efficient and timely way, with least cost on businesses.’
The 2019–20 MYEFO also saw a substantial package of measures
under the ‘New Deregulation Agenda’, amounting to $156.2m over four years, (Mid-Year Economic
and Financial Outlook 2019–20, p. 284) ‘to streamline regulatory
compliance processes and reduce the cost of doing business, including by
targeted investments in technology’. That package included the following measures:
- $60.6 million in 2019–20 to introduce Director Identification
Numbers and transferring existing business registers on to a modernised
platform operated by the Australian Business Register
- $29.2 million over four years from 2019–20 to streamline export
processes by completing the delivery of a digital export certification
$26.8 million over three years from 2019–20 to partner with the
Western Australian Government to develop an online platform for environmental
assessment and approval processes, supported by a database of biodiversity
- $21.4 million over three years from 2019–20 to develop a new
trade information service to provide businesses with a single source of online
information on how to export
$5.4 million over four years from 2019–20 to support food
exporters by promoting the use of the Australian Trusted Trader (ATT) customs
facilitation, and streamlining and digitising the application process for the
ATT and the Known Consignor Scheme
- $10.0 million over two years from 2019–20 to help small businesses
employ their first person, including through developing a consolidated online
$3.0 million in 2019–20 to fund the Deregulation Taskforce to
support the delivery of the Government's deregulation agenda.
In the context of the deregulation agenda, regulatory
agencies are also grappling with the challenges and opportunities created by
technology. This creates both opportunities and threats: harnessing of
potential of ‘RegTech’ (on which point see the Productivity
Commission Information Paper) is an important element of the government’s
deregulation agenda. However, to simplify and automate compliance and reporting
activities, regulatory agencies first need to acquire and integrate the
relevant equipment and technical skills into their operations.
Finally, regulatory agencies have the challenge of effectively
administering and enforcing the rules for which they are responsible. In recent
years, a number of reports have (among other things) criticised regulators and
provided lessons for governments and regulators on what can go wrong. Several
examples include the 2019 Royal
Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Interim Report, the
earlier 2017 Review
of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes, the 2019 Report of the Royal
Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services
industry, the 2020 Interim report
of the Review into the EPBC Act and a 2020 ANAO performance audit
assessments and approvals of Controlled Actions under the Environmental
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Similarly, the Senate Education and Employment Committee
October 2015 reported into The
operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training
(VET) providers in Australia, while in September 2018, Philip Moss provided his Review of the Regulatory Capability and Culture of the
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the Regulation of Live Animal
Quality and Safeguards Commission Senate Select Committee, which is
currently underway, has generated
media reports of the agency lacking the capacity to investigate significant
numbers of complaints.
In 2019 in NSW, allegations of poor regulation led to the
investigation into NSW water management and compliance, while reports of
poor quality residential developments caused the NSW Parliament Public
Accountability Committee to inquire into Regulation
of building standards, building quality and building disputes.
The reports contained a range of findings on the causes of
the regulatory problems, including agency resourcing not commensurate with the
scale of the regulatory staff; lack of adequate information, or a regulatory culture
reluctant to prosecute non-compliance.
Arguably, these reports demonstrate the capacity of our
governance systems to investigate and correct deficiencies, but also suggest
the need for ongoing attention to the complex tasks of compliance and enforcement.
In Australia there are signs of an emerging sense of the importance of the ‘regulatory
craft’ which has seen the emergence of the ANZSOG Regulators Community of
It will be interesting to see whether inaugural appointments
of ‘Heads of
profession’ for the human resources, data professional and digital
professional streams of the Australian Public Service also leads to a ‘Head of
the Regulatory profession’.
All online articles accessed October 2020
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