To many people the rollout of green bins may sound like a great idea. After all, it will make it easier to recycle waste in Canberra. What has been overlooked, however, is the fact that there is already a viable private sector providing these services. The real story here is just how willing the ACT government is to interfere in the private sector. All of this comes — of course — at our cost.
The Labor Government’s announcement to roll out green bins will cost ratepayers millions over four years. The cost of the pilot scheme in Weston Creek and Kambah implies an annual cost of up to $150 per household, well above the $50 deposit for a bin.
This is another example of Labor rushing out costly ideas before the facts are known. As recently as January this year the Government told local businesses that the Government had no plans for green bins and had previously knocked back a third bin for garden waste when the research had identified “high initial establishment costs and significant operational costs”. Private businesses who invested in providing green waste services on the back of these assurances will now see their business callously destroyed.
The lack of consultation and disregard for the role of existing operators demonstrate that the ACT Government is no friend to business.
In fact, the ACT’s red tape and regulation practices are well behind Australia’s leading practice. A 2013 Issues Paper from the ACT Treasury showed that the ACT’s processes were inconsistent with most of the leading practices identified in the Productivity Commission’s report for COAG on Benchmarking Regulatory Impact Analysis. Nothing seems to have been done to improve practice, particularly in relation to impacts on competition, transparency and consultation. The ACT is one of the few jurisdictions that allows exemptions to the need for a Regulation Impact Statement on any grounds beyond than exceptional circumstances.
Rather than using well-established means for determining the scope of government, such as consultation, analysis, and evidence-based policy design, Labor has rushed out a silly and poorly considered policy just a few weeks out of an ACT election.
While the Liberal Democrats welcome the Government’s recent partial backflip on its misguided liquor reforms, it must be recognised that the Government has form on ill-judged regulation.
Who can forget the pathetic law that required charity sausage sizzles to undertake expensive training for safety supervisors? The law was reversed after it was clear that there had been no consultation and the regulation was completely out of proportion to the risks involved. The Government also made a botched attempt to impose costs on displays of Christmas lights.
The recently passed Discrimination Amendment Act is also likely to add considerable costs and uncertainty to business without addressing the issue of discrimination. The legislation introduces a rebuttable presumption that discrimination has occurred after weak tests have been passed (including circumstantial or indirect evidence). Reversing the burden of proof in this way clearly imposes additional uncertainty through regulation. Prudent businesses will adopt a range of expensive defensive measures — human resources policies, diversity training, and compliance and monitoring beyond what the business would already reasonably require — so that they can better defend themselves against any future claims. As recent claims involving alleged discrimination in other jurisdictions have shown, the process itself often becomes the punishment.
Mr Barr’s concern for popularity rather than good policy was highlighted again by the rash decision to mimic NSW’s ban on greyhound racing while in New Zealand, only hours after the lengthy report was handed down. The Liberal Democrats believe that the ACT should work out the best way of regulating this industry on the basis of a proper analysis of the impacts of regulation that serve to meet the desire of people to follow this sport with as little adverse effect on animal welfare as possible. The Government’s rush to a ban ignored the fact that the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club had just spent $30,000 on new security systems to help prevent illegal live baiting.
Despite the Government’s claims that it is reducing red tape, Access Canberra has been too focussed on a myriad of inspections and regulations and is only now moving towards risk based approach to regulation. The Liberal Democrats will ensure that Access Canberra’s current process of simplifying and standardising processes for businesses and individuals across more than 70 licensing areas will be subject to independent assessment to eliminate unnecessary regulations develop a simplified business licensing framework that also takes greater advantage of modern, more flexible regulation that leverages market forces and peer to peer ranking, and ultimately reserves government regulation for only the highest risk areas.
The ACT Government’s disregard for private business extends to running a commercial linen company — the Capital Linen Service — providing services to public and private hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and major tourist attractions. The Liberal Democrats will ensure that this activity will be examined to see whether it has been acting in a competitively neutral manner, why the service cannot be provided by the private sector, and the rationale for funding provided by the Capital Linen Service to a group representing its customers.
While facilitating recycling is a laudable policy objective, there is often much more to public policy issues, as highlighted by the above example. The ACT Liberal Democrats are committed to evidence-based policy, economic rationalism, and ensuring that we have a lean and accountable government.
Roman Gowor is a Liberal Democrat Candidate for Murrimbidgee.