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Regulatory reform should be "part of the furniture": minerals sector

24 October, 2014

Regulatory reform is an imperative for the Australian Parliament, not just the executive branch of government, and needs to be considered "part of the furniture" of the nation's policy making in order to increase productivity and future living standards, according to Minerals Council of Australia.

This is a central message of a new policy paper outlining minerals industry priorities for regulatory reform released by the council.

Strong start

"The Abbott Government has made a strong start with its deregulation and regulatory reform agenda and the announcements by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Parliamentary Secretary Josh Frydenberg represent further tangible progress," John Kunkel, Acting Chief Executive of Minerals Council of Australia, asserted in a statement (22 October).

"But there is still an enormous reform agenda essential to boosting productivity and living standards.

The MCA paper makes a number of detailed recommendations, including that the Australian Government should benchmark the nation's regulatory performance in areas like trade, energy policy, environmental approvals and labour market regulation. "The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Treasury and the Productivity Commission should be charged with driving and coordinating this agenda," Kunkel said.

More specifically, the minerals industry has identified 12 regulatory reform priorities, including:

  • That approval bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and States and Territories be completed and that the Commonwealth Parliament pass the EPBC (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Amendment Bill which provides for the operation of approval bilaterals
  • That the Government promptly outlines the Terms of Reference for the forthcoming Productivity Commission inquiry into the Fair Work Act
  • That the Government moves to repeal the Coastal Trading Act and ensure open market access to coastal trade by all vessels
  • That the Government moves to repeal the Australian Jobs Act 2013 with its unnecessary and complex reporting requirements on resource project purchasing decisions
  • That the Government looks to reform the Renewable Energy Target in line with recommendations made by the Expert Panel Review
  • Too often, rhetoric has not matched reality. Indeed, this gap has widened to a chasm in recent years with reform "backsliding" in areas such as environmental approvals, workplace relations and coastal shipping.

Global competitiveness

"Australia's minerals industry is a "price taker" in highly competitive global markets. Investments are high risk and span decades, while people, capital and technology are all globally mobile. Our largest exporter earner cannot simply pass on unnecessary costs to customers," Kunkel said.

"For these reasons, efficient, stable and risk-based regulatory systems are vital to the industry's global competitiveness and growth prospects.

"What's needed is a willingness to tackle regulatory impediments that have greatest impact on business costs and economic growth, a commitment to reform across the Federation and deep cultural change in the way regulations are thought about, made and operate in Australia."

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