WA’s economic watchdog eyes licensing red tape changes

The West Australian, 22 October 2018 (EXTRACT)

WA’s economic watchdog has opened the Pandora’s box of business licensing and is recommending several changes to the regime.

The Economic Regulation Authority will today call for feedback from the State’s business community after releasing a draft report on the licensing system.

WA’s business licensing regime encompasses registrations, notifications, authorisations, accreditations, permits, approvals and certifications. The system imposes standards on enterprises conducting activities with the potential to harm consumers.

With about two million individual business licences administered through 700 schemes, regulating commerce through licences is one of the convoluted areas of reform.

ERA chairwoman Nicky Cusworth said that the investigation, launched by Treasurer Ben Wyatt late last year, painted “a mixed picture” of the licensing system.

“Licensing schemes are public assets, just like infrastructure and other government assets, and we think they should be managed to reflect that,” Ms Cusworth said.

“But we have found there is no consistent culture, or systematic framework, across regulatory agencies to ensure that business licences are actively managed and continuously improved.”

The ERA found that because the system was not reviewed routinely, regulators did not know about weaknesses in the system until something went wrong.

The review also found that politicians did not prioritise reforming the licensing system and that consumers had no influence over the regime.

“Without data gained through thorough regular evaluation of licences, and a clear focus on the interest of the public who are the intended beneficiaries of most licensing schemes, it is hard to identify where changes are needed and to build a case for reform,” Ms Cusworth said.

The ERA wants a new licensing and reform unit to improve “transparency and accountability” across the public service.

The year-long review will be extended until next year so the ERA can take feedback from regulators, consumers and licensees.

NOTE: For a copy of the draft report on the licensing system log on to : https://www.erawa.com.au/licensinginquiry