8 October 2014
On 22 September 2014, the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) released a consultation paper examining options to ensure that regulation of plumbing and draining products, including their installation, make adequate provision for the health and safety of building occupants.
The ABCB previously undertook a review of the WaterMark Certification Scheme, which raised issues about the coverage of the scheme and the extent to which it is risk-focused, as well as the costs it imposes on some manufacturers.
The Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) examines a range of regulatory and
non-regulatory options for addressing these issues while still achieving the health and safety objectives of the scheme. These options include: an enhanced WaterMark scheme (focussed on health and safety objectives); a voluntary WaterMark scheme; and general certification under the Plumbing Code of Australia without WaterMark.
A COAG consultation RIS was prepared by the ABCB and has been approved by the OBPR.
Consultation will be open until 31 October 2014.
8 October 2014
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) remade two sunsetting legislative instruments without significant amendments on 25 August 2014: the Radiocommunications (Accreditation – Prescribed Certificates) Principles 2003 and the Radiocommunications (Frequency Assignment Certificates) Determination 2003. The instruments support the operation of the Accredited Persons Scheme, which permits accredited persons to perform certain activities related to the authorisation of radiocommunications services.
The proposal has been assessed by the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) as likely to have a limited impact on the economy with no impacts on competition.
In line with the Australian Government best practice regulation requirements for sunsetting legislative instruments, the ACMA has assessed the operation of these instruments in consultation with affected stakeholders and has certified that these instruments are operating efficiently and effectively.
As the instruments were remade without amendments there are no compliance cost changes.
8 October 2014
On 19 September 2014, the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Small Business jointly announced the release of a mandatory code of conduct designed to give bulk wheat exporters fair and transparent access to port terminal services, regardless of who owns the infrastructure.
The Code of Conduct replaces the ‘access test’ arrangements under the Wheat Export Marketing Act 2008, which were seen to impose an unnecessarily high burden on a small number of port operators. The new Code applies to all port terminal service providers, including some operators who were not subject to the previous arrangements.
However, where competition exists, the Code allows for businesses to be exempted from certain mandatory requirements, excluding basic publishing obligations. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has powers to monitor and enforce compliance with the Code.
The Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) explored three other options – the retention of the existing access test arrangements; a ‘one size fits all’ mandatory code that makes no provision for different levels of competition; and the removal of all industry-specific regulation, relying instead on general competition laws.
The proposal has been assessed as likely to have a measurable but contained impact on the economy with significant impacts on competition.
A RIS for consultation was prepared by the Department of Agriculture and was published on 19 June 2014.
The RIS was prepared and certified by the Department of Agriculture, at the Deputy Secretary level, and has beenassessed as compliant by the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR).
The OBPR notes that the RIS process followed by the Department of Agriculture was consistent with best practice.
The Department has estimated average annual regulatory cost savings of $0.63 million. The OBPR has agreed to the regulatory cost savings.
1 October 2014
On 28 August 2014, the Minister for Education introduced the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 into the Australian Parliament. The Bill implements a range of higher education reform measures announced in the 2014-15 Budget.
The Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) identifies the regulatory problem that the reforms are targeted to address, namely, that existing price controls for undergraduate and some postgraduate education at public universities distort the efficient functioning of the higher education market. In addition, current arrangements limit which institutions can deliver subsidised higher education, constraining competition within the market.
Under the preferred option, registered higher education institutions (including public and private universities, and non‑university higher education institutions) would be allowed to set their own tuition fees for Commonwealth supported students, and the Australian Government would reduce its contribution towards tuition fees by an average of 20 per cent for new students. Institutions with 500 or more Commonwealth supported students would be required to direct 20 per cent of additional revenue raised to Commonwealth Scholarships to support access, participation and success for disadvantaged students.
The RIS notes that the preferred option would give institutions the flexibility to structure their arrangements to suit their strategic goals and offer services at prices and in quantities that reflect their specific circumstances and the preferences of their students. The RIS notes that under this option prices for some courses would likely increase, while others may decrease.
The RIS estimates that the preferred option would yield a net average annual reduction of around $9.8 million in regulatory costs.
The RIS was certified by an Associate Secretary at the Department of Education and assessed as compliant with the Australian Government’s Guide to Regulation by the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR). The OBPR did not consider that the RIS represented best practice, given the scale and significance of the higher education reforms and the likely impacts on the higher education market. In particular, the OBPR considered that the impact analysis was not sufficiently accessible to a range of stakeholders.
As the reforms have been assessed by the OBPR as having a substantial impact on the sector and the economy, the Australian Government’s RIS process requires a post‑implementation review to be completed for the higher education reforms within five years of being implemented.
1 October 2014
On 17 June 2014, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced that it will regulate the price that a mobile phone network operator can charge other networks for connecting calls and text messages to its network. The declaration will be in place until 30 June 2019. The ACCC had previously regulated the price of connecting calls between networks, but not text messages.
The ACCC decision was informed by the Domestic Mobile Terminating Access Service Declaration Inquiry (Inquiry). The Inquiry considered which services operated by mobile phone networks should have their price regulated.
The assessment of the Inquiry was that there was no effective substitute for mobile phone calls and text messages. Additionally the Inquiry concluded that mobile networks have the ability and incentive to set unreasonable terms with other networks which could cause detriment to consumers in the long run.
The inquiry stated that the benefits of regulation will be that prices that networks charge each other will be cost based and that it will promote connectivity between networks. The decision does not change the price that mobile phone networks can charge consumers.
The Inquiry was certified by the ACCC as meeting the requirements of a Regulation Impact Statement. The Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) does not assess independent reviews. In certifying the Inquiry the ACCC did not follow best practice as the self-assessment and agreement to regulatory costs occurred after the final decision.
The ACCC estimates the average annual regulatory cost is approximately $2000 and it has identified offsets to this cost through the removal of certain record keeping requirements. The OBPR has agreed to the estimated change in regulatory burden.
23 September 2014
On 22 August, the Chairman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) announced new rules for telecommunication service providers regarding the backup power supply for National Broadband Network (NBN) voice services.
Following the national rollout of the NBN, approximately twenty-six per cent of Australians will be connected to the NBN via fibre to the premises technology. During a power outage, households connected to the NBN via fibre to the premises technology will not have access to fixed-line telephone services without a backup battery supply.
The inclusion of a backup battery in NBN service packages is at the discretion of individual telecommunication service providers. The RIS explored options to address the problem that telecommunication service providers may face commercial incentives to minimise the amount of information provided to consumers regarding backup battery supply.
The RIS identified a principles-based service provider determination as offering the highest net benefit, and was the recommended option. A principles-based determination balances the need for consumers to be adequately informed and the costs to providers of maintaining records of informed consent.
Submissions received during the RIS consultation period revealed that telecommunications industry participants opposed the development of a service provider determination, while regulatory bodies and NBN Co were supportive of government action.
The proposal has been assessed as likely to have a limited impact on the economy with minor impacts on competition.
The preferred option is expected to increase regulatory burden by $230,000 per annum. The OBPR agreed to the regulatory cost and offset estimates.
A Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) was prepared and certified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority under the March 2014 Australian Government best practice regulation requirements, and has beenassessed as compliant by the Office of Best Practice Regulation. The level of analysis contained in the RIS was considered consistent with best practice.
23 September 2014
On 6 August 2014, the Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) on the grocery code of conduct was released for consultation.
The RIS prepared by the Treasury considers whether the activities of the major supermarket chains are harming Australian suppliers. There is considerable debate that difference in bargaining power between supermarkets and suppliers may be used to extract contractual arrangements that go beyond what would be realised in a competitive market.
The preferred option at this stage is for supermarkets to engage in an ‘opt-in prescribed’ code of conduct that makes certain elements of their contractual undertakings with suppliers transparent, and regulates certain things that can be contracted.
The proposal has been assessed by the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) as likely to have a measurable but contained impact on the economy with minor impacts on competition.
A RIS has been prepared by the Treasury for consultation which is currently open for comment.
The RIS has been certified by the Treasury and was subject to an early assessment by the OBPR.
17 September 2014
On 25 July 2014, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) made a variation to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code relating to a Primary Production and Processing Standard for Meat and Meat Products.
Meat producers are currently not directly regulated for traceability, input and waste management under the food regulatory system. Rather, they are indirectly regulated via requirements on meat processors to source products from producers who meet such requirements. This means that State and Territory food regulators are unable to investigate on-farm food safety issues without activating emergency powers under their respective Food Acts; in the event of a food safety incident, the additional time that this takes can allow an incident to worsen.
When the changes to the Code come into effect in 2015, the requirements relating to traceability, input and waste management for meat primary producers will be directly established under the food regulatory system, thereby allowing regulators to investigate on-farm food safety issues without the need to activate their emergency powers. This could contribute to a more timely response in the event of a food safety incident.
The changes will not alter the regulatory costs for the vast majority of farmers as they already largely meet the requirements. However, the adjustment to the regulatory arrangements improve the capacity of food safety regulators to regulate proactively across the entire meat supply chain, and increase their ability to avert and limit the potential economic consequences of food safety incidents associated with meat should they occur.
A Council of Australian Governments Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) for decision was prepared by the FSANZ and has been approved by the Office of Best Practice Regulation. The RIS can be downloaded from the FSANZ website via Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.
17 September 2014
On 29 August 2014 a consultation paper was released for the Review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for Health Professions (the National Scheme) on behalf of the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC).
The National Scheme for the health professions oversees the safe practice and regulation of more than 618,000 health professionals and is established to achieve:
• protection of public safety
• facilitation of workforce mobility
• facilitation of high-quality education and training
• facilitation of assessment of overseas-trained health practitioners
• promotion of access to health services
• development of a flexible, responsive and sustainable workforce
The consultation paper has considered the achievements of the National Scheme against the key objectives and guiding principles. The paper also assesses the future sustainability of the scheme, its administration and how it works at the points it interacts against other regulatory systems operating in States and Territories. The consultation paper identifies several areas for potential reform including in relation to governance, complaints and notifications and accountability.
The period for submissions will remain open until October 10, 2014.
The consultation paper was prepared as a Council of Australian Governments’ Regulation Impact Statement and has been assessed as adequate by the Office of Best Practice Regulation. The consultation paper can be downloaded from the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council website.
3 September 2014
On 7 April 2014 Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the conclusion of negotiations on the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA). Prime Minister Abbott and Prime Minister Abe signed the agreement on 8 July 2014 in Canberra.
Japan is Australia’s second-largest trading partner, with two-way trade in goods and services reaching nearly $70 billion in 2012-13. Australia and Japan also have significant direct investment relationships. However, there exist a number of tariffs and other barriers which constrain the ability of Australian producers and exporters to build trade, and which limit profitability and expansion opportunities for these businesses. These barriers are particularly significant for Australia’s agriculture sector.
The implementation of the JAEPA will reduce tariffs on a number of Australian exports, with over 97 per cent of Australian trade entering duty free or with preferential access on full implementation, and improve access in some professional services markets. It will also see tariff reductions on a range of Japanese product lines imported into Australia, notably consumer electronics, white goods and motor vehicles.
A Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) was prepared and certified by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to support the decision to endorse the signing of the JAEPA. The Office of Best Practice Regulation’s (OBPR) final assessment was that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is compliant with the Australian Government’s requirements at the final decision point. However, the OBPR did not consider that the RIS represents best practice, having regard to the significance and widespread nature of the likely impacts of the proposal on the Australian economy.
In addition, as a RIS was not prepared for the decision in 2006-07 to enter into negotiations on the Australia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, DFAT is non-compliant with the RIS requirements for that stage of the process. As this regulatory change has been assessed as being highly significant, the Government requires a Post-implementation Review to be completed within five years of the agreement being implemented.