Free business from red tape

by 7 August 2020

Article by Chris Rodwell courtesy of the West Australian

Cutting red tape is the kind of reform that costs taxpayers nothing, yet makes a real difference to business and delivers major results for the economy.

It also has an uncanny ability to slip off the agenda, largely because people don’t really understand what it means, so governments can’t reap any credit when it pays off.

Fundamentally, it means busywork demanded by government — to get approvals, registrations, accreditations and authorisations for generally routine things businesses need.

The late Kerry Packer addressed it in a memorable appearance before our 36th Parliament.

“From the time I was 18 or 19 years of age to now, there must be 10,000 new laws that have been passed — and I really don’t think it’s that much better a place,” he said.

Cutting red tape is almost always a top priority of the business community, and in the past year, The West Australian has revealed many compelling stories of grinding cost, delays and consequences for local enterprises. Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and his Assistant Minister, Ben Morton, have brought new focus to the cause, committing to “release the animal spirits” of our nation’s entrepreneurs. So, too, has our State Government, which through the Streamline WA initiative sharpened its scissors for an emergency COVID-19 regulatory haircut.

As an inaugural member of Streamline WA, I approached the recent effort with cautious optimism. So many governments have wielded the red tape scissors, but opted instead for the tweezers.

To make any headway in advancing economic reform, the early stages are like a prolonged pre-season training schedule. It’s painstaking and arduous. Hurdles need to be overcome. You need to build a big repository of data to inform your work and an occasional rev up of the public service might also be required. But if you stay the course, you get an economy that is fitter with every chance of higher performance come game time.

The advent of COVID-19 marked the start of game time. Our leaders recognised that we could no longer afford the luxury of stubbornly held ideological positions. The economy and jobs were at stake.

The decision by a Coalition Prime Minister to introduce a wage lifeline worth $86 billion clarified that the playing field had changed and that this extended to regulatory reform, whether in relation to the labour market or other regulatory areas.

To seize the moment for our State, in April CCIWA called for Streamline WA to be “supercharged”. The WA Government announced on Friday that it would be “turbocharged”. Whatever the vernacular, progress is being made. Certain change-of-use approvals and other busywork required by government for businesses to adapt to the crisis have been waived or abolished. There has been agreement to combine several environmental approval processes for major job-creating projects into one. The Enterprise Training Program has been expanded to enable better and more rapid industry-led reskilling of workers.

Further, last week more long-held priorities of the business community were secured.

There will be changes to legislation and regulation to remove needless duplication, speed up low-risk decisions, and advance a single instrument of approval for mining tenements. There will also be an online “one-stop shop” for key approvals, and more accessible plain English guidance to reduce the uncertainty of businesses about government requirements.

And regulators will become more accountable, with increased transparency about the effectiveness of regulation, such as the publishing of performance data online into the future.

This is real progress, which will improve business conditions in our State and provide more fertile ground for growth and job creation.

Yet WA must go further to create a more competitive environment for investment, to boost confidence and enable economic growth to drive our recovery.

Unlocking even one per cent growth in business investment for each year of our recent economic forecast Outlook, WA’s economy would be $1.5 billion larger, or $1400 per household.

There is also wisdom in ensuring all new legislation receives the most thorough consultation and assessment prior to execution and that there are obligations to regularly review its relevance. Disappointingly, this is not always the case.

On this we can revert again to Kerry Packer in 1991:

“This idea of just passing legislation, legislation every time someone blinks, is a nonsense. Nobody knows it, nobody understands it. You’ve got to be a lawyer, purely and simply to do the things we used to do. And every time you pass a new law, you take somebody’s privileges away from them.”

Chris Rodwell is Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA CEO

Rich-list solar farm wins federal support

by 3 August 2020

Article by Perry Williams courtesy of the Australian

The world’s biggest solar farm worth $22bn and backed by Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest has won major project status from the Morrison government, fast-tracking approval hurdles as it targets exporting electricity from the Northern Territory to Singapore by a subsea cable.

The tech mogul and iron ore billionaire are joint lead investors for the venture which aims to send 10 gigawatts of power from the world’s largest solar farm near Tennant Creek to Darwin and then Singapore via a 4500km high-voltage direct current cable, creating a $2bn annual renewable export industry.

The project will create 1500 construction jobs and 350 ongoing roles in Australia with $8bn of the $22bn investment to be spent locally.

“It’s a strong statement to all Australians that despite the immediate challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic we will come out the other side stronger and industry is still investing in opportunities that will drive our economic recovery and create much needed jobs,” Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said.

Gaining major project status gives Sun Cable support from the Major Projects Facilitation Agency and support with both Commonwealth government, state and territory approvals. The NT government also awarded the development major project status on July 20 amid hopes it will give a major boost to the nation’s renewable investment which has taken a hit in the last year.

“It is a significant milestone for the Australia Asean Power Link, which will see Australia become a world leader in renewable electricity trade, generating approximately $2 billion worth of exports for Australia annually,” Sun Cable chief executive David Griffin said.

The development – which is expected to also include a giant battery storage facility near Darwin – aims to reach financial close by late 2023 and has previously secured some interest among electricity retailers in Singapore.

Mr Forrest, chairman of major iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group, invested through his Squadron Energy unit which is also backing Australia’s first gas import plant in Port Kembla.

Mr Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Atlassian and an increasingly influential figure in renewable energy – has hailed the power of divesting from fossil fuels and rejected an argument made by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates that climate activists were wasting their time lobbying investors over the issue.

Australia could create a million new jobs through backing renewable energy with new transmission lines and the creation of a new manufacturing industry, a think tank backed by Mr Cannon-Brookes said in June.

The plan is based on building 90 gigawatts of solar and wind energy and harvesting that through the economy. It argues 10 new transmission lines connecting renewable energy projects in regions like the Pilbara and Northern Territory could create thousands of new jobs.

Company tax cuts will spark post-Covid economy

by 27 July 2020

Article by Jeff Bennett and Tony Markin courtesy of The Australian

Government-imposed health restrictions have decimated the travel, tourism and entertainment sectors of the Australian economy. Logic suggests that recovery from the flatline caused by this pandemic depends critically on policies that revive the productive heart of the economy – Australian companies.

This contrasts with Keynesian-oriented proposals for more government spending; for instance, on infrastructure.

Mainstream economists strongly disagree about the effectiveness of government spending as a means of boosting the economy to the extent it crowds out other forms of spending, including private investment and exports.

Yet, there is a consensus that higher private investment not only boosts aggregate demand but strengthens economic growth on the supply side via an enlarged capital stock.

Before the pandemic, Australia had been experiencing significantly lower economic growth than before the global financial crisis. Productivity and real wage growth had also been sluggish. A key reason for this malaise was that private investment has been anaemic.

This pre-pandemic decline in private investment had been most pronounced in sectors apart from mining. Lifting private investment would counter Australia’s productivity slowdown from the turn of the century and help restore income-per-head growth to long-term average rates.

A reason why private investment here is worryingly low is because of Australia’s 30 per cent company tax rate.

In a world where the competition for capital remains intense, particularly for large companies (many of which are branches of multinational companies), it is simply too high.

The US and the UK, traditionally Australia’s two main sources of foreign direct investment, have rates of 21 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. The effective marginal tax rate for Australian companies was third-highest out of 74 countries considered by an OECD study in 2017.

Even cutting company tax for large companies from 30 to the 25 per cent rate applicable to small companies would have Australia’s company tax rate significantly above the worldwide average.

The existing government policies of applying differential investment allowances and overall tax rates according to the size of a company simply distort investment decisions and increase compliance costs.

At the macroeconomic level, Australia’s internationally uncompetitive company tax rate deters investment, both domestic and foreign. This adversely affects productivity, employment and wage growth.

Providing tax relief for business should therefore be central to the federal government’s fiscal response to the COVID-19 crisis as a means of generating jobs and economic growth.

Australia is an open economy and, historically, its domestic investment opportunities have exceeded its available domestic saving (which, as a proportion of GDP, is close to the OECD average). National investment-saving gaps manifest in the external accounts as current account deficits, were matched by foreign investment, broadly defined.

In recent quarters, the heavy fall in investment has given rise to current account surpluses.

These surpluses have been trumpeted as a sign of economic success in some of the media and official circles. What they really show is a worrying development because it reflects less foreign investment.

Foreign direct investment, which is sensitive to after-tax returns, is not to be feared. It should be welcomed because it delivers productivity gains via technology transfer, international management practices and product development. It can also spur greater domestic competition and imitative behaviour by our locally owned firms.

A company tax cut implies reduced budget revenue. However, any revenue fall would be mitigated by the stimulatory effects reduced company tax would have on the broader economy in raising other forms of revenue, including goods and services and personal income tax.

Company tax revenue would likely also rise in the future to the extent that foreign companies, which today are deterred by the existing uncompetitive company tax rate, establish new operations here. Meanwhile, revenue lost due to Australian-based companies choosing to relocate abroad because of the relatively lower tax burden would be curtailed.

Balancing the budget will nonetheless require offsetting cuts to wasteful government outlays on uneconomic infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail infrastructure and subsidies to support a “green economy”. A comprehensive, external root-and-branch review of existing public spending programs at all levels of government along the lines of the Henry tax review should be instigated immediately as a blueprint for public expenditure reform.

Expenditure reduction would counter budgetary pressure caused by company tax relief and also stimulate the economy. It has been forgotten that the only genuine Australian fiscal consolidation episodes in living memory were undertaken by the Hawke-Keating-Walsh and Howard-Costello teams, and that after both, the economy flourished.

NT public service heads given 5 weeks to draft up tape-slashing plan, as recommended by Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission report

by 21 July 2020

Article by Madura McCormack courtesy of NT News

NORTHERN Territory public service bosses have been given just five weeks to write up a red tape slashing plan that will make the Territory the ‘easiest place to do business’ in Australia, as part of the jurisdiction’s bounce-back from the pandemic-induced recession.

The aim — for the NT to have the “most efficient approval process” in the country by slashing business licensing and approvals to a maximum of 30 days — is one of 15 interim recommendations made by the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission.

The crack team of eight experts from the public and private sector, led by gas sector heavyweight Andrew Liveris and former Chief Minister Paul Henderson, yesterday released their first report on how the NT could become a $40 billion economy by 2030.

It focuses on the key areas of energy via renewables and gas, resources, agribusiness, water, infrastructure, tourism, digital industry and regulatory and administrative reform.

All 15 interim recommendations have been accepted by Chief Minister Michael Gunner.

The cornerstone of the commission’s recommendations, according to Mr Liveris, is to attract private investment to the Territory by making it the “easiest place in the country to do business”, in turn growing the economy and population.

Central to this is a move to undertake swift and wide-ranging regulatory and administrative reform by getting the public service to “step up”.

In a letter seen by the NT News, Mr Gunner has given departmental heads until the beginning of September to “urgently determine” how each agency can deliver the plan to improve and upgrade systems and staff, and to slash approval times to 30 days.

The commission wants this achieved by June 2021.

A Major Project Coordinator will also be set up to establish a system of quicker approvals to support proponents, as long as they are meeting the full suite of regulatory requirements.

This, and other recommendations in the interim report, has drawn both support and ire from the Opposition, who say many of the ideas are policies they have already pitched for the upcoming election.

In renewable energy, the commission is asking the NT and federal governments to investigate the viability of a high voltage direct current electricity highway between Darwin and Alice Springs, with the possibility of enabling multiple projects that supply and make use of renewable energy “up and down the spine” of the NT, and a way to connect to the national electricity grid.

It is hoped this would support the creation of “renewable energy zones” and allow the NT to move away from diesel generation in remote communities.

In gas, the commission has asked both levels of government to help slash red tape holding back the infrastructure needed to support private development of the Beetaloo Basin, when the particular project is proven commercially feasible.

Fast-tracking of the Middle Arm Industrial Precinct masterplan is recommended to help the NT secure a spot as a player in the rapidly-growing hydrogen industry, in minerals processing, and in the low emission fully-integrated petrochemical industry.

For rock-based resources, the commission has hinted toward using the extended $2 billion Northern Australia Infra-structure Facility to give mining projects that are close to squaring away their finances a cash-filled push across the line.

The commission also asks the NT government to take advantage of its new-found “love affair” with the federal government and urgently establish a joint “Investment Delivery Taskforce” to identify ways to speed up investment decisions for private proponents close to turning the first sod. It is hoped this plan can be ready for the next government.

To secure the important ingredient of water, the commission has asked the NT government to undertake a detailed business case for new water infrastructure in the Greater Darwin region, such as bringing Manton Dam back online or building off-stream water storage on the Adelaide River.

Resurrecting the tourism industry would require co-operation between the NT and its neighbours WA and Queensland to lobby the federal government for targeted financial support for struggling northern Australian operators so they can survive until the 2021 season.

This includes asking the federal government to fork out an extra $95 million for Kakadu National Park — on top of the $216 million it promised at the last election and the $131 million it announced last week — to fully fund the construction of roads to six significant sites.

It is recommended this work be completed within two years instead of the planned 10 years.

A planned $200 million Darwin Waterfront expansion also will be worked into phase two of the City Deal, with private sector funding to be pursued to build the staged integrated development to support population growth and tourism.

Environmental laws ‘dated and inefficient’, review finds

by 21 July 2020

Article by Geoff Chambers courtesy of the Australian

Scott Morrison has ordered the biggest shake-up of Australia’s environmental laws in 20 years, pushing responsibility for project approvals to the states in a bid to slash green tape and drive job creation through the COVID-19 pandemic.

New national environmental rules will be finalised by the end of next month to fast-track major projects and unleash an investment boom across the mining, gas and property sectors, ending two decades of “slow, complex and costly” duplication across state and federal laws.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the government’s national environmental standards would underpin new bilateral agreements with state governments to “unlock job creating projects”.

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of four key recommendations in Graeme Samuel’s interim review of the 20-year-old Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which has been blamed for putting more than $65bn of investment at risk.

Ms Ley said the government would begin negotiations with states this week to enter agreements for “single-touch approvals”, removing duplication by “accrediting states to carry out environmental assessments and approvals on the commonwealth’s behalf”.

The Business Council of Australia, Minerals Council of Australia, Property Council of Australia and APPEA — representing the nation’s largest companies — said the Samuel report provided the blueprint to drive new investment and create jobs.

Professor Samuel said the community and industry had “lost trust” in the EPBC Act, describing the laws as “cumbersome and slow”.

The former Australian Competition & Consumer Commission chair said industry had raised concerns over legal challenges being used as a “tool to delay projects and drive up costs for businesses”.

“An underlying theme of industry distrust in the EPBC Act relates to perceived duplication with state and territory processes and the length of time it takes to receive an approval,” he said.

“On average, complex resource sector projects can take nearly three years, or 1013 days, to assess and approve, and this is too long.”

Professor Samuel said the development of national environment standards should focus on “detailed prescription of outcomes, not process”.

Research by the Institute of Public Affairs estimates the lawfare provision of the EPBC had put more than $65bn of investment at risk by “holding major projects, such as dams, coalmines and roads, up in court for a cumulative total of 10,100 days since the year 2000”.

IPA director of research Daniel Wild said much of the investment held up by lawfare had been “concentrated in job-starved region­al communities”, ranging from the $16.5bn Adani coalmine to a $30m salmon farm in ­Tasmania.

Ms Ley ruled out expanding the EPBC Act to include climate triggers.

Professor Samuel’s recommendation for an “independent cop on the beat” to oversee enforcement of new environmental rules was also rejected by the government to avoid “additional layers of bureaucracy”.

The Samuel report, which had up to 30,000 submissions, also calls for Indigenous cultural heritage laws to be reviewed, slamming state and federal governments for not providing adequate protections through environmental processes.

“There is a culture of tokenism and symbolism. Indigenous knowledge or views are not fully valued in decision-making. The EPBC Act prioritises the views of Western science, and Indigenous knowledge and views are diluted in the formal provision of advice to decision-makers,” it said.

Ms Ley said she would work with Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt and state Indigenous ministers to “commence a national engagement process for modernising the protection of Indigenous cultural heritage”.

The government will also begin discussions with the private sector to explore “market-based solutions” for enhanced habitat restoration to “significantly improve environmental outcomes while providing greater certainty for business”.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt, who lashed the Queensland Labor government over its stalling of the Adani and New Acland mine projects, said “scope three emissions requirements” had been a significant deterrent for mining projects and he supported “any move towards removing the burdensome conditions”.

APPEA chief executive Andrew McConville said Australia’s oil and gas industry was “dis­appointed” the Samuel review had recommended the EPBC water trigger — a “key example of duplication” — be retained but welcomed options to apply the measure more efficiently.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said faster approvals and clearer guidelines on environmental management would “boost jobs and investment and improve biodiversity outcomes”.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said more effective environmental regulation would help “drive new investment and create new jobs”.

Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said the plans by the commonwealth to devolve environmental approval powers to the states would be “lining up Australian wildlife for extinction”.

Mining will lead the recovery

by 20 July 2020

Article by Paul Everingham courtesy of the West Australian

While the economic benefits of Western Australia’s mining and energy sector have long been acknowledged, the impacts of COVID-19 has brought home just how essential the sector is to the nation’s wellbeing.

Back in April this year, it was reported in The West Australian that WA’s decision to keep the resources sector running through the coronavirus had saved the national economy from collapse during a financial shock never seen before in Australia nor other countries worldwide.

The article was based on comments by Federal Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy to a Senate committee in which he said the decision to allow the sector to continue operating had been very helpful in putting a floor under what would otherwise be a much larger fall.

It was a sentiment echoed by WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt, who didn’t mince his words when he said: “I know Josh Frydenberg, the Commonwealth Treasurer, every day will be waking up and thanking Western Australia’s mining sector”.

While our political leaders have long espoused the economic importance of the resources sector, most people would not be aware of just how far-reaching those benefits are to the community.

Last year, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia asked its members to provide information on direct expenditure spent on wages and salaries, purchases of goods and services, community contributions and payments to local governments and State Government.

A total of 53 companies across the WA resources sector provided data, representing 73 per cent of the WA resources sector by production.

This data includes more than 100 operational sites across the State from mining, oil and gas, downstream processing, as well as major service providers.

This fact-finding exercise demonstrated how every community in WA and beyond benefits from the resources sector through residents who work in the industry and businesses who supply goods and services to the sector.

The results revealed the sector contributed more than $67.1 billion to Australia’s economy and directly created more than 71,000 full-time jobs in 2018-19.

Considering this survey is just a snapshot of the sector’s direct contributions to the broader economy, the actual figure is likely to be substantially higher than $67.1 billion.

Overall, these companies contributed $45.8 billion to the WA economy and a further $21.2 billion to the Australian economy, made up of:

› $41.7 billion spent on purchasing goods and services from 14,464 WA businesses;

› More than $8.5 billion in wages and salaries paid to 71,244 full-time workers; and

› $5.7 billion in payments to State Government and $11.1 billion to Federal Government.

On top of the $67.1 billion direct contribution to Australia, there is an additional $50.3 billion in value created by the WA resources sector through supply-chain purchases and creation of 311,796 full-time jobs in related fields, such as freight and logistics, engineering and geologists, laboratory testing of ore samples and site preparation services.

All in all, the sector supports one in five jobs in WA.

While the combined economic contribution of these WA resources companies to Australia was $67.1 billion, the contribution of the sector is not just an economic one.

There were 902 art, education, health, sports, indigenous, environment and social organisations and 77 local governments who received support from the sector.

This information demonstrates that each community in WA has people living there who work in the resources sector or work for local businesses supplying goods and services to the sector.

From this, there are both direct and indirect benefits spread across these communities flowing from the financial contributions made by companies.

As Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt said in May, the resilience of the WA resources sector provides the royalties and company taxes to help fund the vital government services that Australians deserve.

As COVID-19 stubbornly refuses to loosen its grip on Australia, it has become obvious that industries like mining and oil and gas will form an important part of our State’s, and indeed the nation’s, economic recovery over the next 18 months.

For its part, the sector has significantly changed many of its procedures and introduced new safety measures to maintain its operations, health of its employees and continue to financially support community organisations who have been particularly affected by COVID-19.

We are quite proud to say the measures we have implemented here in WA are being rolled out nationwide, and in some cases, more broadly to projects across the world.

I think all West Australians would be appreciative of the efforts of our hardworking mining and oil and gas workforce who have made personal sacrifices to keep this vital industry operating during this crisis.

Collectively, we are committed to working with WA to get through this crisis and support the State’s economic recovery.

Regardless of any future spike in cases, we are poised and well equipped to keep on working.

Paul Everingham is the chief executive officer of the Chamber of Minerals & Energy of WA
Illustration: Don Lindsay

To lure Hong Kongers, let’s import their system

by 20 July 2020

Article by Nicholas Tam

Making Darwin a charter city ruled by Hong Kong’s pro-prosperity legal framework would eradicate at least some of the regulatory complexity stifling Australia’s economy.

When Commodore Gordon Bremer raised the Union Flag at Hong Kong’s Possession Point in 1841, few imagined that the meagre war prize dismissed by Lord Palmerston as a “barren island with barely a house upon it” would one day capture the world’s imagination as a cosmopolitan economic powerhouse.

Bereft of natural resources and blessed with only a beautiful harbour, British institutions, and Cantonese industriousness, Hong Kong’s evolution into a global hub for aviation, dispute resolution, finance, and shipping is a compelling story of prosperity against the odds.

Modest tax reductions and tweaks to the regulatory leviathan proposed by Senator Andrew Bragg will not suffice to replicate Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial dynamism. Senator Andrew Bragg is therefore correct to observe that Hong Kong’s success should inspire policymakers interested in improving Australia’s global competitiveness. However, the modest tax reductions and tweaks to the regulatory leviathan he proposes will not suffice to replicate Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial dynamism. Australia’s current economic framework could not be more different to Hong Kong’s philosophy of positive non-interventionism.

Aside from capping personal income tax at 15 per cent, company tax at 16.5 per cent, and levying zero tax on capital gains and dividends, an important element in Hong Kong’s success has been the simplicity of its legal framework.

For instance, every tax levied in Hong Kong is consolidated in its 861-page Inland Revenue Ordinance. By contrast, Australian income tax alone is an incomprehensible gobbledegook slovenly sprawled across the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, and Taxation Administration Act 1953 contained in 22 volumes totalling 8740 pages.

This, of course, does not account for the countless regulations and guidance notes promulgated thereto. This culture of prolix legislative drafting, over-taxation and over-regulation, enriches the job-killing bureaucrats who administer it and the army of lawyers and accountants who struggle to understand it but discourages the rest of society seeking to produce wealth.

Our archaic employment law framework seemingly competes with our oppressive tax system to inflict the greatest economic and legal misery. What else can explain the quagmire of the unintelligible industrial awards which cause even the most well-advised large corporations and the government-owned ABC to become unwitting wage thieves to the tune of millions where, in most cases, neither employer nor employee realised there had been a legal breach?

Why would entrepreneurs accustomed to the flexibility of common law contracts and the ability to easily ascertain the contractual price payable choose to locate in Australia where the latter is a byzantine task that, in the case of Woolworths, took a decade to discover?

Nor does one build an entrepreneurial culture with the world’s highest minimum wage and a penalty rates regime which sees Brunswick baristas working Sundays paid more than the Banco Court barristers of the wig and gown variety, who, as Woolworths’ well-remunerated advisers Ashurst showed, are probably illegally underpaid too!

Australia’s current economic framework could not be more different to the philosophy of positive non-interventionism pioneered by Hong Kong’s revered former financial secretary, Sir John Cowperthwaite. Appointed in 1961, Cowperthwaite famously prevented Hong Kong from following the Mother Country into the hellish vortex of the Keynesian welfare state that was de rigeur amongst Whitehall civil servants of the time by refusing to collect economic statistics.

This deft move inhibited the creation of grandiose five-year plans and the usual devices of bureaucratic meddling in the economy, which prompted Milton Friedman’s famous observation that “to see capitalism in action, go to Hong Kong”.

Does anyone really expect Australia to attract mobile international capital with the woke bureaucratic burdens imposed by gender equality reporting, modern slavery statements, and a stock exchange which once demanded companies justify their nebulous “social licence” to operate?

It might be easier for Canberra to simply use the territories power to designate Darwin or a greenfield site on the Northern Territory coast as a charter city in order to build a pro-prosperity legal and tax system from scratch, which would also be geographically closer to Asia.

To simplify and expedite the quest for the regulatory alignment Bragg identifies as conducive to luring financial institutions to Australia, one could import the Hong Kong legal framework wholesale and declare that the charter city applies the law of Hong Kong as at 29 June, 2020, until otherwise amended (thus excluding China’s national security law), in the same way that Australia’s Indian Ocean territories apply Singaporean law as at the time of their transfer in the 1950s.

First theorised by former World Bank chief economist Paul Romer in 2009, charter cities returned to the headlines after Hong Kong entrepreneur Ivan Ko recently commenced negotiations to build one in Ireland.

An Australian charter city would swiftly eradicate the policy detritus suffocating our economy and turbocharge the dream of developing northern Australia.
correct to observe that Hong Kong’s success should inspire policymakers interested in improving Australia’s global competitiveness.


by 20 July 2020

Article by Matthew Killoran courtesy of the Courier Mail

THOUSANDS of jobs have been delayed by blowouts in federal government green tape approvals by 510 per cent, with some projects held up by almost four months.

The claim is based on opposition analysis of a scathing audit office review and comes ahead of the release of a review into the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The analysis shows that just 5 per cent of decisions under the EPBC Act were made on time. The other 95 per cent saw a blowout in approvals delays beyond the deadline from 19 days to 114 days. One north Queensland project faced delays of more than 1800 days.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Terri Butler said it was a major delay in jobs for projects across the state and country and hit the government’s credibility in the resources sector.

But the government said that the data failed to take into account the increasing politicisation and complexity of the approvals.

In 2014, 60 per cent of approvals were done within the statutory time frames, which vary depending on the project but were on average just 19 days overdue when late.

But by 2018-19 , the figure had plummeted to just 5 per cent of decisions made on time, and an average of 116 days overdue when late.

It had begun to improve again, rising back to 30 per cent of approvals on time in 2019-20 after the environment department received $25m in December to clear the backlog.

Ms Butler said the drop in approvals followed massive cuts to the environment department’s budget in 2014.

“Scott Morrison claims to be a JobMaker, but he’s a Job-Delayer ,” Ms Butler said.

“The Liberal National government’s cuts and mismanagement have led to job and investment delays.”

Environment Minister Sussan Ley accused Labor of being divided on the issue, backing miners in rural electorates while politicising major projects in the inner city.

“Labor has blocked previous Coalition attempts to reform environmental approvals and responded with nothing of substance,” she said.

“Their data pays no attention to the increasing politicisation and complexity of approvals in recent years, a factor they would be all too familiar with.”

The Prime Minister has indicated that his government is seeking to streamline environmental approvals for major projects.

Ms Ley said that Graeme Samuel’s interim review of the EPBC Act would be released very shortly. “Unlike Labor, who left the Hawke review on the shelf a decade ago, we will be looking to act,” she said.

This is how much overregulation costs your family each year

by 17 July 2020

Article courtesy of The White House

For years, the Swamp has interfered in the lives of private American citizens by piling regulations on nearly every form of economic activity.

This “expert” rule from Washington has created thousands of well-paying jobs for bureaucrats while costing everyone else time, money, and—for many—their careers.

This afternoon, President Trump is announcing more results from his Administration’s historic regulatory relief efforts. The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), for example, estimates that just 20 of the Administration’s deregulatory actions will save U.S. consumers and businesses over $220 billion per year.

What does that mean
for your family? According to CEA, President Trump’s deregulation program is projected to boost household incomes by $3,100 annually in the coming years. The benefits will take many forms: Americans will have access to cheaper cars, and patients will save nearly 10 percent on prescription drugs.

Most important, these rollbacks on everyday items will help blue-collar and middle-class Americans significantly more than the richest citizens of our country.

Overregulation falls disproportionately on the shoulders of lower-income families, who spend a larger share of their incomes on heavily regulated goods and services. Those purchases include transportation, food, and healthcare. Such government burdens also cost American jobs by causing workers to be replaced with lower-cost machines.

Before taking office, President Trump promised to roll back two regulations for every new one added in Washington. He’s kept that promise—and more. Under the Trump Administration, seven regulations have been rolled back for each new one implemented.

Under President Trump, $50 billion in regulatory costs has already been saved. By current projections, the CEA estimates that cutting red tape will lead real incomes for Americans to rise by $53 billion per year between 2021 and 2029.

Americans don’t need Washington to create more white-collar jobs for central planners. They need a government that operates efficiently, effectively, and inexpensively to protect citizens while creating jobs for workers across the country.

National Farmers Federation’s blueprint for agriculture-led recovery

by 15 July 2020

Article by Richard Ferguson courtesy of the Australian.

Australia’s farmers want industrial relations rules simplified, export fees waived, cuts to green tape and millions poured into regional infrastructure in order to spark a post-coronavirus economic recovery led by the agricultural sector.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson will tell the National Press Club on Tuesday that agriculture can lead Australians back to prosperity if federal and state governments invest more heavily in the regions.

After years of being hammered by bushfires, drought and floods, agricultural businesses have performed relatively strongly throughout the coronavirus pandemic as the regions avoided the worst of the virus spread.

The NFF’s report into economic reform in a post-COVID Australia will be released on Tuesday, to coincide with Ms Simson’s press club address, and includes a number of recommendations on environmental laws, tax reforms and changes to workplace rules.

Ms Simson’s address will focus on the need to reform the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and call for farmers to play a bigger role in setting carbon targets, plus seek a $1bn fund to incentivise farmers to meet biodiversity targets.

The interim findings of an independent review of the EPBC Act are due to be released in the next fortnight. “Farmers manage 51 per cent of the Australian landscape — every day we create positive environmental outcomes on behalf of all Australians,” Ms Simson will tell the National Press Club.

“But for too long draconian and complex environmental regulation has shackled farm businesses. Australian farmers are already leading the world in reducing carbon emissions. Our red meat sector has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030.

“To measure agriculture’s impact and that of other industries, we call on the government to be inclusive and transparent with the data used to set national emissions reduction targets.”

The NFF’s report, called Get Australia Growing, said all export fees and charges should be waived for farmers for the next two years as they search for alternative trade routes, amid warnings red tape was holding farmers back in key overseas markets. Ms Simson will also call for 20 new multi-million-dollar regional development deals for rural towns, which will build infrastructure and provide special tax incentives for those areas.

“If the national cabinet has proven one thing, it’s what can be achieved across borders when there is a shared goal,” Ms Simson will say. “We’re not in the business of picking winners but regions that come to mind are: the Midwest and Goldfields in the West; the Limestone Coast in South Australia, Victoria’s Mallee, the Riverina of NSW, the Darling Downs and magnificent central Queensland.”

The report said the Fair Work Act must be streamlined and suggested a review of unfair dismissal laws, an increase in flexible individual arrangements with workers and a probe into annualised salary rules. “The complexity of the industrial relations system is exacerbated by distinctive features of the farm sector such as remoteness, massive workforce fluctuations and turnover, and reliance on labour hire,” the report says.

“Consideration should be given to streamlining the Fair Work system so rights and obligations are easy to understand.”

The NFF’s report is backed by farmers, who say they are in a better financial position now than back in January when they were hammered by natural disasters.

Queensland farmer Krista Watkins and her husband Rob’s company Natural Evolution was the first to manufacture and export banana flour, which have they turned into health and beauty products. Her company has grown during the pandemic. “We’ve even been able to add staff. We had problems exporting to China early in the pandemic, so we made sure we had a plan and a product that would sell in the Australian market,” Ms Watkins said.

“At Natural Evolution, we use our own products and food waste from other farmers and find use for it – we’re putting that produce to use in manufacturing.

“Everyone is always saying we need to rebuild our manufacturing and agriculture can lead that, the regions can lead that. Government needs to provide more support to get that happening – special tax offsets, the sort of subsidies we see going into green energy.”

Little Big Dairy co-founder Erika Chesworth said her business had grown during the pandemic due to home deliveries, and nominated payroll tax and internet access as areas needing reform.

“The NBN is a joke and we flick between that and 3G. It’s holding us back,” she said.

“The NSW government is very generous to businesses starting out but payroll tax makes it very difficult to grow.’’