The Political Economy of Australian Regulatory Reform

Published in the Australian Journal of Public Administration (together with Chris Berg, Aaron M Lane and Patrick A McLaughlin).

Abstract: The problem of regulatory accumulation has increasingly been recognised as a policy problem in its own right. Governments have then devised and implemented regulatory reform policies that directly seek to ameliorate the burdens of regulatory accumulation (e.g. red tape reduction targets). In this paper we examine regulatory reform approaches in Australia through the lens of policy innovation. Our contributions are twofold. We first examine the evolutionary discovery process of regulatory reform policies in Australia (at the federal, intergovernmental, and state levels). This demonstrates a process of policy innovation in regulatory mechanisms and measurements. We then analyse a new measurement of regulatory burden based on text analytics, RegData: Australia. RegData: Australia uses textual analysis to count ‘restrictiveness clauses’ in regulation – such as ‘must’, ‘cannot’ and ‘shall’ – thereby developing a new database (RDAU1.0). We place this ‘restrictiveness clauses’ measurement within the context of regulatory policy innovation, and examine the potential for further innovation in regulatory reform mechanisms.

Deregtech: Using Technology to Deregulate the Economy

Originally a post at Cryptoeconomics with Chris Berg and Aaron M Lane.

The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to make deregulation and cutting red tape the centrepiece of the COVID-19 economic recovery.

This focus is not just welcome, but essential. Entrepreneurs need room to experiment with new business models without being held back by unnecessary rules — as we argue in our recent book Unfreeze: How to Create a High Growth Economy After the Pandemic.

But at the same time, developed world governments have spent at least three decades trying to cut burdensome red tape — with little obvious to show for it. The regulatory state just keeps expanding.

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Red Tape Reduction: A New Approach

Book chapter published in Australia’s Red Tape Crisis: The Causes and Costs of Over-Regulation

Abstract: Policymakers pursuing regulatory reform can take one of two complementary paths: first, identifying and repealing specific regulatory instruments or sectors; or second, through placing institutional constraints on the regulatory process itself. This paper reviews the political economy of these two paths in Australia before focusing on the latter path, of red tape reduction policies and procedures. Developing effective red tape policies and procedures relies on the quantification and measurement of the red tape burden so that success or failure can be benchmarked. Finally this paper introduces a new approach to measuring regulatory burden—counting the number of restrictive clauses as applied in British Columbia—as the potential future of red tape mechanisms in Australia.