POLITICS: Making Regulation Work Better

By James, Colin | New Zealand Management, April 2009 | Go to article overview

POLITICS: Making Regulation Work Better


James, Colin, New Zealand Management


Byline: Colin James

Rodney Hide used to chase taxis carrying overspending MPs. Since he went dancing with the stars he has been happier hunting regulators.

His Regulatory Responsibility Bill in 2006 lacked drafting rigour, Sir Geoffrey Palmer of the Law Commission said. But both Labour and National endorsed its general intent and under the National-ACT support agreement a task force has been set up to C[pounds sterling]carry forwardC[yen] the bill.

Hide wants a bonfire of regulations. No centrist government will go along with that. But governments of centre-left and centre-right have become interested in making it easier to comply with regulation and, as a logical extension, keeping regulation down to what is necessary to achieve policy objectives.

LabourCOs Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel got enthusiastic about this after talking to the Australian Productivity Commission. She contemplated a similar enterprise here, as National is now.

Dalziel instituted a C[pounds sterling]quality regulation reviewC[yen]. Drawing on businessCO experiences, she set out to identify compliance problems which could be fixed without compromising policy or administrative objectives.

Late in the Labour governmentCOs time, she developed a tougher standard of departmental reporting on the impact of proposed legislation and regulation and the reasons why alternative options, including doing nothing, had been rejected. She brought the reports forward to when papers went to cabinet committees, to nip counterproductive regulation before it buds.

When Labour lost office last year, Dalziel left behind a Regulatory Improvement Bill changing the Companies, Conservation, Designs, Fisheries, Gas, Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Restructuring, Reserves and Weights and Measures Acts to C[pounds sterling]make small gains to improve the quality of specific regulatory environmentsC[yen]. It was to be the first of many such bills.

Where Dalziel took small steps, Hide wanted a step-change: an economic cost-benefit analysis of all new and existing regulatory law. His bill would also have required compensation for taking property and abrogating common law rights and required government agencies to state the reasons for a regulation, the effect on property and other legal rights and alternative options and to publish an official notice if departing from those principles.

The cost-benefit approach has some appeal to National ministers who see a business-friendly regulatory environment as critical to lifting productivity growth. …

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