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LOCAL ECONOMY AND BUSINESS

The ACT Liberal Democrats see that the government is doing far too little to help the business community.  It is even more important that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic must allow good businesses to re-open and that many other businesses can rapidly adapt to meet changes in people’s preference in a post-COVID-19 world.

Moreover, with the size of the Commonwealth public service in Canberra reducing over time, the ACT needs to diversify its economy.  Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACT had the highest taxes and the highest rate of business failure in Australia. If the ACT had the business survival rate of NSW and Victoria there would be nearly 800 more businesses in the ACT. 

While Canberra is fortunate to be the home of the Commonwealth public sector and has the best and brightest people the nation has to offer, Canberran businesses are under significant pressure from increasingly unfair costs from a government that cannot manage its own budget as well as the pressing need to recover from the pandemic.

A number of regulations have been reduced across Australia to help firms operate in difficult times[1]  Examples include lifting night-time curfews on delivery trucks to ensure supermarkets can be more easily restocked; relaxing liquor licensing to allow restaurants and bars to do home-delivered alcohol; suspension of Australian content requirements on television; relaxing controls over the production and use of medical face masks, ventilators, virus testing and pathology; and easing regulations allow distilleries to produce alcohol-based hand sanitiser; and reduced supervision requirements for nurses re-entering the workforce. 

Many of the regulations that have been suspended are burdensome and costly to comply with and are not essential to support a functioning economy.  If reforms of this nature can be adopted during a crisis, there is every reason that they should be retained in more normal times. 

The ACT Liberal Democrats consider that regulatory reform needs to ramp up from just tinkering with red tape review that just tidies up minor regulations to a full-scale reform effort to ensure that economic growth, productivity growth, opportunity and consumer choice can thrive in a post-pandemic world.

The ACT Liberal Democrats propose a two-part approach. First, government needs to get its own finances under control by better managing its resources and not looking to the private sector for increased taxes. Second, government needs to adopt a more business-friendly approach. This would involve reforming the small business and food business checklists so that there is a one-stop shop that not only helps businesses navigate government rules and regulations but would also help business look for ways of operating with the lowest possible regulatory burden.

Even before the pandemic, the ACT was lagging best practice regulation. Its “Best practice guide for preparing regulatory impact statements” has not been updated since 2003 and it is clear that the ACT government has not been following that guidance – for example the ACT’s over-regulation of e-cigarettes has not been subject to any cost benefit analysis.  Other jurisdictions, such as Victoria, have bodies that work with businesses to identify opportunities to cut red tape, such as cutting duplication, identifying "hotspots" for regulatory reform, and speeding up approvals processes. 

The ACT Liberal Democrats propose the creation of a Commissioner for economic freedom who would be charged with pro-active reduction in unnecessary regulation. 

For example, as a small jurisdiction, the ACT should not be in the business of determining whether the standards in other jurisdictions are appropriate. If a good or service, or the process of a business supplying a good or service, is deemed safe and appropriate for Melbourne, Sydney or Perth, then it should be automatically deemed safe and appropriate for Canberra. Consequently, the ACT should automatically recognise the minimum regulatory standards of other Australian jurisdictions.

The ACT Liberal Democrats:

  1. Commits to reducing the high cost of doing business in Canberra.
  2. Will reform one-stop shops for businesses to help them navigate government rules and regulations and to reduce the regulatory demands of government.
  3. Appoint a Commissioner for economic freedom to be pro-active in reducing unnecessary regulation, speed up decision making by regulators, and undertake a thorough review of processes and practices to reduce the administrative burden on businesses – including those that are not needed in a post-COVID world.
  4. Will introduce a sunset clause in all legislation.
  5. Will encourage entrepreneurship and innovation throughout the Canberra community, including by offering flexible leave without pay options for public servants interested in starting their own business or undertaking part-time work in the private sector (subject to standard conflict of interest tests).
  6. Will automatically recognise the minimum regulatory standards of other Australian jurisdictions.

 

 

[1] For a list of deregulations as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic see Berg, Chris “This silent deregulation must become a pillar of recovery”, the Australian Financial Review, 27 April 2020. 

 

The official page of the Liberal Democratic Party in the Australian Capital Territory. Authorised by Guy Jakeman, Florey, ACT, 2615