REGULATION REVIEW COMMITTEE
Mr CRUICKSHANK (Murrumbidgee) [1.05]: This report continues the series of reports produced by the committee in relation to the regulations examined by it. The regulations dealt with in these reports represent only a fraction of the cases examined by the committee. At each meeting the committee examines in detail at least 20 separate regulations. The committee's continuing task is to see that government departments make only necessary regulations. The bottom line is that the public, especially the business community, does not want one single additional regulation unless it is absolutely justified.
The committee recently examined the Landlord and Tenant (Rental Bonds) Regulation 1993. One of the objectives of this regulation is to permit the Rental Bond Board to invest in the Home Purchase Assistance Fund. It seemed to the committee that in view of the historical and continuing losses of HomeFund, there would not appear to be clear public interest justification for the Rental Bond Board to be given power to invest in HomeFund. On 16 March the committee wrote to the Minister for Housing outlining its concerns about the appropriateness of this regulation and requested that a proper assessment of its costs and benefits be carried out.
In a letter dated 4 May the Minister announced that in February the Office of Real Estate Services had been established to review rental bond legislation as part of its initial work program. Although the Office of Real Estate Services was established as far back as February, it has really not got under way and has achieved nothing. In any event, it is extremely unlikely that this body will eventually examine the specific merits of the investment power dealt with in this regulation. In all probability the committee's request for the merits of this regulation to be properly examined will get lost in the system. Unfortunately, this is a case where regulation has got by the bat, as it were.
The committee is methodical and careful in its appraisal of regulations. It is a good backstop for reliable administration. The committee is not generally popular with government departments - it does not seek to be. Readers of our reports are mainly found among the bureaucrats who draft the regulations. Again, that is how it should be; that is the audience we want to influence. When I receive complaints from Ministers - I received one today - I know the committee is finding its mark. Figures supplied by the Parliamentary Counsel show that there has been a reduction from a total of 976 regulations on 1 July 1990 to 646 regulations on 1 September 1994 - a reduction of 33.8 per cent. The figures also show a reduction in the number of report pages in this period, from 15,075 to 9,535 - a reduction of 36.75 per cent. This is a good record for the committee and the Government.
With a fortnight remaining for this sitting of Parliament I would like to thank the members of the committee for their support and bipartisanship. The Regulation Review Committee is not an easy committee to serve on as the issues change at each meeting, the papers are voluminous and the subject matter demands unflagging attention to master its detail. But there are compensations. The work brings all committee members up to date with both the mainstream and minutiae of government and presents many opportunities to contribute something to its more effective operation. I commend the report.
Mr HATTON (South Coast) [1.10]: I place on record my admiration for the work of this committee under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Murrumbidgee. It is a shining example of what the committee process should be and of members of Parliament getting together on a bipartisan basis, taking on the bureaucracy and, if necessary, making themselves unpopular with the ministry by questioning whether proper procedures have been followed, whether regulations were correctly and legally put in place, and whether they were necessary. The bureaucracy, the ministry and Executive Government are given enormous powers under umbrella legislation by way of regulation. In my 20 years as a member of Parliament I have not seen a committee take on such a task and do it as well as this committee has done.