The Federal Government, with the agreement of Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) Business Regulation and Competition Working Group, has tasked the Productivity Commission with undertaking a nine-month benchmarking study into regulator engagement with small business.
The purpose of the research study is to identify leading practices in regulator engagement and determine whether there are opportunities for adoption of these practices to reduce the compliance burden on small business, while sustaining good regulatory outcomes. Specifically, the Commission has been asked to:
- Provide evidence on the variety of approaches used by regulators to engage with small business.
- Assess the effectiveness of different approaches and identify leading practices, including in overseas jurisdictions, considering:
- The balance of facilitative, educative and compliance-based approaches, including the use of risk-based compliance and enforcement strategies;
- Whether approaches appropriately consider the characteristics of small business;
- The extent to which regulatory engagement approaches vary with the nature and objectives of regulations and with the way the regulatory regime is defined by policy makers; and
- How the use of particular engagement approaches might shape regulatory culture.
- Identify the levels of assistance and education provided to small businesses and assess whether such assistance could be better targeted to lower compliance costs for small business and improve the administrative efficiency of meeting regulatory objectives.
The Commission has also been directed to determine a definition of what constitutes a small business, since inconsistent criteria are currently adopted across different regulators and jurisdictions. Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said the wide-ranging national study will deliver a report card on how small business-friendly Australia's various regulatory authorities actually are.
“The way that Commonwealth and State regulators go about their operations can have a big impact on the time and costs of small businesses, and this PC study will look at which regulators are doing their jobs in the most small-business friendly way.”
Minister for Small Business Brendan O'Connor adds that the report will complement the role of the first Australian Small Business Commissioner, Mark Brennan.
“It provides a great opportunity for people in small business to voice their concerns about how regulators interact with them and the final report card will be useful in improving practices and lead to small businesses spending less time and resources dealing with those regulators.”
The Commission is currently seeking public submissions and will release a draft report later this year. The deadline for public submissions is Friday March 15; for more information on how to submit your views visit www.pc.gov.au/projects/study/small-business.
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