EDS: THIS STORY IS NOT FOR USE UNTIL 0005 THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 6
By Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer
CANBERRA, Feb 6 AAP – The state and federal governments have been urged to embark on a new five-year plan to harmonise business and industry regulation.
The COAG Reform Council made the call on Thursday, releasing its final report to the Council of Australian Governments on the success of the “seamless national economy” program over the past five years.
The report card found that of the 45 reform areas covered by the federal-state agreement, 31 had been successfully completed and a further 11 were partially complete.
The Productivity Commission estimated that just 17 of the reforms alone would reduce business costs by $4 billion a year and add $6 billion a year to GDP.
COAG Reform Council chairman John Brumby said it was time for the premiers and prime minister – who will meet in April – to consider a new agenda for the next five years.
Among the issues for that agenda should be energy, transport, how to fund infrastructure, competition policy, deregulation and the reforming COAG itself.
“There is unfinished business,” Mr Brumby said.
There also needed to be work on the three reform areas of the past five years that were not successfully concluded: mine safety, regulation making and review, and the legal profession.
Mr Brumby said there was clear evidence that reward payments to the states and territories led to better progress on reform.
After five years, governments had completed 21 of 26 reward-linked reforms and only 10 of 19 non-reward reforms.
Asked how reward payments could be afforded given the federal government’s budget tightening, Mr Brumby said growth in GDP and extra tax revenue generated by a healthier business sector would offset any modest spending.
South Australia was rated the most successful state, completing 29 of the 40 reforms it was involved in, while Western Australia completed only 22 of 36 reforms.
Neither WA, NSW or Queensland – considered to have the highest-risk mining activity – had put in place national mine safety regulations, but NSW had passed mine safety laws.
Of the reforms, harmonising building and plumbing regulations across states (except WA) into a national construction code was said to be worth $1 billion a year to the national economy.
Uniform occupational health and safety laws, not yet enacted in Victoria and WA, could be expected to save cross-border businesses $500 million a year.
Mr Brumby said COAG should continue to monitor the success of the already enacted reforms.
“It’s important that a mechanism be put in place to make sure there is momentum to ensure the rest of the agenda is completed, so Australians and Australian businesses get the benefits,” he said.