Business leaders don’t really care who the regulator is – it’s all just government. That was the position put forward by a delegate at the National Small Business Summit, who asked a panel of regulators what they were doing to reduce the red tape burden on SMEs.
ASIC commissioner John Price claimed that regulators have already saved businesses enormous sums of money through simple, practical curbs to red tape.
“The federal government, for some time, has focused on deregulation and individual agencies report through how much cost savings to business their various work in this area has achieved,” he said.
“I’m very pleased to say that ASIC [alone] has saved businesses in general, not just small businesses, in the vicinity of $460 million per year.”
This massive cost saving from a compliance burden has been achieved in a number of ways, Mr Price said, including the example of changing the default requirement for disclosure information to be provided in hard copy to simply providing hard copies of this documentation on request.
“That decision alone, we estimate, saved tens of millions of dollars a year,” he said.
However, Mr Price admitted that while a lot has been done behind the scenes, much more could be done to reduce red tape further.
“There is an enormous opportunity to look at government registers and information and centralise them,” he said.
This would mean removing the overlap of data inputs, meaning that businesses aren’t required to provide the same data to multiple agencies, or search for information across multiple websites and bodies that pertains to the same core issue.
“For my mind, that is really the future. I think there is enormous opportunity in looking at government registers and government information requirements generally and centralising them,” said Mr Price.
“It’s an approach that you tell government once.”
The ATO’s Chris Jordan agreed, and said such an approach also needs to be implemented for businesses owners to extract relevant information.
He noted that a survey on small business compliance costs several years ago revealed that tax was not an major issue; instead it is the more everyday operational rules and regulations that are front of mind for most smaller businesses – again, many of which are not controlled at a federal level.
“What award rate do I pay? Do I have to pay for laundry? What’s the OH&S? What’s the Workers’ Comp? How many chairs can I put out on the street in front of my café…” he said, listed some of the questions that were raised.
Mr Jordan suggested there is a huge need for the provision of industry and state-specific information at the point of business registration, and potentially annual follow-ups, with links to all of the relevant regulations and agencies applicable to that business.
“Not one new word needs to be written,” he said.
“It’s all there, but [at present] you’ve got to go across multiple websites [to find it] … all these basic things are scattered everywhere.
“That’s red tape reduction, because you’re saving time.”