About 12 years ago, when John Fahey was the member for the federal seat of Macarthur, he and then Minister for Small Business, Jeff Prosser addressed a meeting of the Campbelltown Chamber Of Commerce.

John Fahey said “what makes this government different from any previous government is our total committment to reducing red tape for businesses”

Since that time we have had GST, Superannuation Surcharge, Superannuation Levy, incorporation of foreign accounting and auditing standards into the corporations law, anti-money laundering reporting, personal services income rules, non-commercial loss provisions, Div7A rules for private company loans to its shareholders, reporting of some, but not all, fringe benefits on group certificates, Australian Business Numbers….

This week the Treasurer tried to convince us that he too is committed to reducing red tape. Just like all his predecessors.

CANBERRA, Aug 15 AAP – Treasurer Peter Costello has unveiled a raft of changes he says will sweep away red tape for Australian business.

In a formal response to the government’s red tape task force, Mr Costello said he would be acting on 158 of its 178 recommendations and proposals.

He said one of the key responses would be to make it tougher for new regulations to be introduced by the federal government.

A cost-benefit analysis will be conducted on all new regulations before they can go to cabinet for new decisions. And all regulations across the country will be reviewed every five years to see if they are necessary, and if there are ways to reduce those regulations.

“Regulation is a matter of concern for all Australian businesses,” Mr Costello told reporters. “It is important that governments take steps to reduce the amount of red tape.”

As part of the government’s response, federal and state government will establish a committee to examine the case for the introduction of standardised business reporting. Mr Costello said standardised processes had the potential to reduce business reporting costs significantly.

The committee will be chaired by the Treasury Department, and will consult with government agencies and the business sector. A progress report should be completed by year’s end.

“The aim will be to reduce compliance costs for a wide range of businesses through the establishment of an IT-based system which would allow businesses to report to relevant authorities in a consistent manner,” he said. “This would remove the need for businesses to individually report to various government agencies at the commonwealth, state and local levels.”

The committee will look at how information from business to government can be changed to reduce duplication, as well as aligning terms and reporting periods.

Mr Costello said a similar project in the Netherlands reduced the data collected from business from more than 180,000 items to 4,500. This is thought to have saved Dutch small and medium sized businesses more than 350 million Euro ($A580 million).

Among the other proposals are an effort to harmonise state and territory conveyancing laws, a move towards a single regulator for mine safety and a fringe benefits tax reporting exclusion for pooled vehicles.

The government will also start efforts on simplified accounting methods for small restaurants, cafes and caterers, a review of thresholds for the definition of a large proprietary company and a streamlining of business names through the Australian Business Number system.

Mr Costello said the regulation review office within Treasury would be strengthened and re-focused, becoming the office of best practice regulation. “It will work closely with government agencies as they develop policy proposals in order to prevent the generation of unnecessary new regulation,” he said. “Furthermore, the government is mandating appropriate levels of regulatory analysis, including through the use of the business cost calculator, also available to businesses, to quantify in dollar terms the compliance cost of proposed regulatory options.

“The government will also undertake annual reviews to examine the cumulative stock of regulation and identify an ongoing red tape reduction agenda.”

…..And in ten years time, we will do it all again

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