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Businesses want more red tape cuts


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For thousands of Australian businesses the Abbott government’s first so-called repeal day can’t come soon enough.

But there will also be disappointment that among the thousands of pieces of regulation that will be ditched today – in what the government describes as a “red tape bonfire” – three areas that are the real bugbears of trying to do business are largely untouched.

Research by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry found safety and workers compensation, wages, conditions and superannuation, and tax compliance obligations are the biggest hindrances to doing business.

The chamber’s acting chief economist, Burchell Wilson, said that while that was unfortunate, he was optimistic they would be on the agenda at some point.

Even so, business is highly supportive of repeal day, which is part of the government’s promise to remove $1 billion worth of red tape a year.

“Red tape is strangling small business,” Wilson told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Almost three quarters of businesses believe the regulatory burden has increased over the past 12 months alone, while more than half said they had no capacity to pass on compliance costs to consumers.

For Wilson the most disturbing finding was that 40 per cent said the red tape burden was restricting the growth in their businesses.

“If you are preventing businesses from expanding, you are also preventing them from taking on new staff,” he said, adding that was seriously bad news for both them and the economy.

The Labor opposition will support most of the government’s repeal day laws that cover some 9500 pieces of unnecessary regulation and 1000 redundant acts of parliament that come at a cost to the economy of $700 million a year.

But it has baulked at legislation to axe the Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.

And a bill to streamline the way in which agricultural and veterinary chemicals are approved will be referred to a Senate committee for an inquiry.

Separately, the government has temporarily deferred rolling back Labor’s financial advice reforms amid concerns it would weaken protections for investors.

The government decided on Monday to wait until Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann consults with all relevant stakeholders “before pressing the go button” on changes to Future of Financial Advice laws.

“We are committed to the polices we took to the last election,” Cormann told the Senate on Tuesday.

Cormann took charge of the issue after Arthur Sinodinos stepped down as assistant treasurer last week pending his appearance as a witness before anti-corruption inquiries in NSW.

Industry groups have supported the delay, but shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the government was avoiding implementation of the controversial changes before the April 5 West Australian Senate election, a state where consumer protection is a key concern after the Westpoint collapse.


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