Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How to do spend a lot to do absolutely nothing

The chicken-winged Treasurer announced today the Government's response to the Redtape Reduction Taskforce Report. And what an absolute joke. If one wants an example of government-ese and how to say a lot with saying nothing, then this is the response to read!

The Government has agreed to token reforms of existing laws, including working to harmonise conveyancing laws ... man, what great reforms!!!! This is in the same league as floating the AUD, or reducing tariffs.

A more important aspect of the redtape reforms is the plan to address the flow of bad regulation. This is where the government-ese is at its best. The government has proposed to:
  • include a cost-benefit analysis for new regulation;
  • renaming the irrelevant Office of Regulation Review to Office of Best Practice Regulation;
  • use of the business-cost calculator; and
  • adoption of six principles of good regulation.
Call me kooky, but these requirements already exist in the form of a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) !!!!! The RIS is a completely irrelevant document supposedly undertaken by government agencies to analyse the costs and benefits of proposed regulation. BUT, like all things government, it does nothing. The Office of regulation Review has no powers, is unable to provide any analytical rigour to RISs, and has done nothing to stop bad regulation.

Oh, but what about the fabled compliance cost calculator .... the glorified excel spreadsheet that the best minds of the Office of Small Business (I know it’s an oxymoron) miraculously thought up .... well, all it does is multiply hours taken to complete forms by the hourly wage rate .... and, wait for it, each of these elements have to be manually entered by the user. So, the Government, in its analytical best, has solved all regulatory problems by adopting an excel spreadsheet that is completely user dependent!!!! In fact, the only government-value-adding is to enter the =A1*A2 code!!!!!

The RIS has become irrelevant largely due to the incompetence of the Office of Regulation Review, and the absence of any consequences of failure to do a RIS. Hands up who knows that Treasury only did a RIS for around 60% of regulations? And what consequences are there? None!!!! So what is the response of Government? Let’s change the name of the ORR to the Office of Best Practice Regulation. Wow!!!! Who would have thought that the problem of non-compliance by government agencies could be solved by a name change. Can you imagine it? I mean poor public servants completely oblivious to the ORR, but the OBPR!! I can see them trembling over their morning teas.

Ah gosh, anyone who thinks the flow of crap regulation will be reduced is smoking the same stuff Costello was when he thought he'd be PM.

In all seriousness though, the Government cannot be serious that this is economic reform. It is a disgrace. And to think of the resources spent on the Redtape Reduction Taskforce, and in preparing the response. It amazes me how expensive hot air can be.


Anonymous said...

Right on Luke. i used to work in the ORR, and i observed that the problem was old fashioned incentives.

The main problem was that there is no incentive to make trouble, and piblic servants do not have much fight in them (on average) in any case.

If they were to dispute a proposal in an attempt to block bad regulation, Minister X, or the Secretary, would be on the horn putting pressure on the poor public servant.

so to avoid this, they just pass the regulation. and if you're busy - it's easy: just pass the damn things, and no one will complain.

certainly not that spineless joke that runs the ORR / OBPR.

Matt Canavan said...

These "gatekeeping" arrangements are just like the video ref system. It only works when review clearly shows which decision should be made.

But, you can pretty much always construct an economic case for any regualtion. It is never clear cut.

Therefore, RIS requirements don't change much, they simply require regualtors to jump through more hoops before the same decision is made.

In this environment, changing things is only going to make matters worse. No doubt resources will now be wasted working out how to 'game' the new system.