AGRICULTURAL red tape savings have reached $25 million, according to the the Abbott government’s latest bureaucratic cost cutting exercise.
The Coalition pledged to make red tape savings a key agenda item for business by reducing the burden by $1 billion per year, including for the farm sector.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Christian Porter told the ABARES conference in Canberra earlier this month the thorough, evidence-based red tape identification process had saved $2.1 billion in its first two years.
“What we have achieved is over 400 decisions with an impact of less than $10 million per year, so 400 smaller decisions which percolate down throughout the whole community, and there have been 38 decisions with an impact of more than $10 million per year,” he said.
Mr Porter said agricultural gains included $6.9m by updating the Biosecurity Act; $2m via improved guidelines for timber importers; $1.9m in compliance savings for the Farm Management Deposit (FMD) scheme; and $5m for improved online cargo management.
He said the FMD changes decreased compliance costs for farmers, but the estimated $1.9m didn’t include any measure of productivity impacts generated from the savings.
About $700,000 per year has also been saved by extending the registration period for agvet chemicals, meaning businesses won’t need to reapply as often and therefore have less paperwork compliance to manage, the Western Australian Liberal MP said.
Mr Porter said the Coalition’s recent annual red tape 'repeal day' identified key savings for agriculture.
Red tape has been pinpointed by farm leaders as one of the major impediments to ongoing farm viability.
“We are improving the regulation of stock and pet food products of well-defined risk, reducing the need for these defined risk products to be subject to the same intensive assessment process as high risk agvet chemical products,” Mr Porter said.
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has made increased farmgate returns the key goal and ethos of his ministerial reign. He welcomed the $25m identified in regulatory savings for the agriculture sector via the red tape cutting program.
The latest repeal saved $7.8m by removing restrictions to access new products for livestock producers, pet owners and animal feed manufacturers.
“Australia has been lagging behind international competitors in our access to new and innovative feed varieties and not only does it put us on level footing, it could also improve long-term animal health and reduce workload for the regulator the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Management Authority,” he said of the latest savings.
Mr Joyce said the government was committed to a competitive and innovative agriculture sector, “one that brings greater returns to the farmgate, expands trade opportunities and strengthens our rural and regional communities”.
“We need a regulatory system that supports a competitive sector and makes it easier for our farmers and producers to get on with their business - not one that burdens our producers and exporters with unnecessary paperwork and layers of bureaucratic red tape,” he said.
“To date, my portfolio has identified $25m worth of reductions in regulatory compliance costs across a range of areas, including agvet chemicals, biosecurity, live animal exports and service delivery modernisation.
“I know that in the agriculture sector some of the regulatory burden lies with States and Territories, local governments, and other government portfolios.
“I remain committed to working with my parliamentary colleagues and my State and Territory colleagues to identify areas where we can work together to sensibly eliminate and reduce overlap and duplication.”
Mr Joyce said work on deregulation was ongoing and that more reductions in compliance costs could be expected in coming years.
“Throughout this process, I’ll continue to welcome advice from business, industry and the community. I’ve established the Agricultural Industry Advisory Council, with members from a range of agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries, to ensure affected stakeholders are consulted on the reform measures,” he said.
Mr Joyce said the latest red tape cuts had included discussions to ensure any reforms would not increase the risk to human or animal health and safety.
“At the same time we’ve listened to industry about where regulations are burdensome and these reforms release a pressure valve of red tape that was preventing new and existing products to hit the market quicker, with fewer impediments,” he said.
Small Business Minister Bruce Billson also announced savings in the government’s method of tax reporting for individuals and businesses.
Mr Billson said 402,000 small businesses with modest or negative incomes that are required to lodge a business activity statement will no longer have to interact with the PAYG instalment system.
He said reforms to the payment of superannuation contributions will reduce red tape by almost $20m.
Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss also announced that $82m had been saved by cutting infrastructure red tape.
The savings included $8.3m from the repeal of spray suppression requirements for B-double trucks registered under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme.
Mr Porter said it was the first time in Australian history that a Commonwealth government had - with a very high degree of accuracy - publicly reported to Parliament, the total amount and cost of Commonwealth regulation.
“Being the first Australian government to achieve a thorough, accurate and reliable picture of the stock and cost of Commonwealth regulation offers very significant economic opportunities,” he said.