Collaborative reform Liberal style

Not so long ago ALP politicians controlled the governments of every state. I think they still did at the end of 07, though I may be wrong. In any event, it was an obvious opportunity an amazingly rare opportunity. For that reason I spent a bit of time on this blog and on the phone trying to see what kind of political project one might erect from it. Because political aspirations are not terribly bold today, and because of the structure of things, it might have been necessary to be fairly modest.  But this post contains a record of 12 ideas which resulted from some blog based brainstorming.

What became of it? Nothing much in a policy sense. But the states did band together in a political exercise to resist John Howard’s soft climate change denialism and it was politically successful, and was a good stroke of policy because it meant that, coming into national government they were about six months ahead of the pace with the Garnaut process.

Otherwise, I don’t think anything much happened, though I’d be happy to be corrected below.

Meanwhile the newly Liberal Governments of NSW and Victoria have announced a reform partnership.  The public material is full of fine sounding intentions, though I expect it’s too early to see what comes out of it. But the fact that they occupy 57 percent of the Australia economy is significant.  Whatever they can agree to harmonise between themselves, and this seems a major focus of the activity, would create quite a strong ‘attractor’ for others to copy. And it does seem that they got the idea of doing something together a little quicker than their ALP counterparts.

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4 Responses to Collaborative reform Liberal style

  1. Leroy says:

    Uniform defamation laws are one result of uniform Labor State governments at that time. They agreed between themselves what they wanted, and pushed the Howard government to accept all their changes rather than just the ones originally proposed by Ruddock.

    My understanding is that Rob Hulls & the then Vic govt were very keen on companies not being able to sue for defamation, in order to prevent instances similar to the UK case where McDonalds took on protesters, and this lead to that being written into law across the country.

  2. Corin says:

    Nicholas, this is a pretty interesting article, although I think unfairly negative on reg reform as actually most things were achieved I think notwithstanding OHS:

    This was my comment:

    Interesting article, however having been involved with design of the regulatory reform proposal, through advising Craig Emerson through 07 (as much of the thinking came from Opposition and the first weeks of government) and up to end of 08, I would suggest many of the big changes, are done. See one consumer law and one tier of financial institution regulation, which may not be as contested as OH&S, but are major in benefit (perhaps as great if not greater than OH&S).

    As with most things about that time, the shortcomings (the things not done) have become greater it would appear to people than the things done. That was political management failings more than outcome failings – I mean when did Howard ever try and get one consumer law!

    I would also suggest that Rudd’s intentions on business regulation were genuine (when he floated the proposal at the National Press Club in April 07) and it was one the areas for which he could claim success – albeit I accept his agenda did perhaps rely on Labor maintaining hold of the states for longer than has turned out.

  3. Nicholas Gruen says:

    I’m not too sure the govt’s agenda was such a success. I was brought in early on with Lindsay Tanner saying that he wanted to introduce my ideas of continuous improvement in regulation. The Dept had me in, and had me write papers, but didn’t seem to know what to do with them or the ideas in them.

    The COAG agenda however was an agenda – with tasks for bureaucrats to do, so it just filled the vacuum. Unless one was deeply buried in each of the agendas, it was pretty hard to know whether harmonising was an improvement, a step backwards or just a lot of activity for officials.

    I certainly got told by some state officials who fancied that they had better, more flexible regulation with better outcomes, that the Feds weren’t interested i that – they wanted harmonisation however they could get it. After all, that was the political goal. (I’m not saying this is true, I don’t know, but then I don’t think anyone else knows either.)

    And that’s the whole problem with reg review – it’s buried in a million tiny details. So the policy task is trying to subject those million tiny details to some rigour. I think my continuous improvement ideas offer some means by which one might do that, though it would still be hard slog, but they didn’t get taken up.

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