One of the key functions of regulatory agencies is to establish the rules and guidelines in a defined sector, industry or area. Agencies must ensure compliance whilst also balancing the need not to be overly burdensome on the individuals, organisations and businesses they oversee. Agencies receive their regulatory powers and responsibilities through Acts of the Parliament, and therefore the Parliament needs to be assured that they are exercising those powers and undertaking those responsibilities appropriately.
This report is based on five Australian National Audit Office reports, each of which examines the operations of a particular regulator, into areas as diverse as higher education, environmental protection, the lobbying code of conduct, the national energy market, and electoral funding disclosures.
The Committee highlights that although the field managed by each regulator is unique, there are practices and procedures that every regulator should follow to be effective: regulatory information should be collected and managed properly so that it is accessible to decision makers; risk assessments should be conducted on the basis of sound information and should inform regulatory strategy; compliance and enforcement activities should be risk-based and neither too burdensome nor too permissive; and regulators, like other government entities, should ensure their internal governance and oversight mechanisms are appropriate. The Committee has made recommendations with these aims in mind.
I would like to thank the organisations that participated in this inquiry, and also extend my thanks to my colleagues on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit who have worked together to deliver this report, and the Secretariat who continue to work tirelessly to assist Committee members.
Mrs Lucy Wicks MP
Member for Robertson