Peter Costello has announced that 4,100 pages of inoperative law will be removed from the taxation legislation. This is a Good Thing I guess, but I’m not sure I’d give it a reception quite as enthusiastic as Henry Thornton.
You little ripper! Treasurer Peter Costello is going to give the chop to over 4000 pages of “inoperative” tax law and make various simplifications to the operative parts, including private rulings by the ATO.
Our DNA contains is it 90% of junk code – that is stuff that some scientists presume is no longer operative. But if that’s right it doesn’t seem to do much harm sitting there.
A lot of pages of the tax act are similar. Meanwhile although it is quite true that over-regulation (or better put bad regulation) is a serious problem for our society and economy, our understanding of the problem is crude as is our measurement of the problem. We repeatedly measure it in pages of legislation and the number of instruments passing into law. This ignores the quality of the regulation.
And the kind of reform we’ve got here is the kind of reform you’d expect when this is your measure of success. Yet even acts of deregulation spurn more legislation and more regulation – if you measure it by pages. This is the case whether it’s badly designed deregulation as most people would consider the recent IR regulation was, or well designed regulation as the implementation of the Hilmer or Wallis Reports involved.
I think we should be thinking a bit differently about regulation. I won’t cite chapter and verse here because it would be nice to get someone to pay for it. But here’s a thought. What if we thought of regulation as standard setting. That would certainly put the spotlight where I think it belongs. That is on:
And we might be more relaxed about the increasing volume of regulation. After all, as societies grow their standards become larger and more complex.