It's like a jungle

Grandmaster Flash’s lyrics spring to mind when I consider our red tape challenge: ‘It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.

600 hours on red tape
On average, public servants devote 600 hours each year complying with red tape processes. This is time spent on process rather than output. Imagine the impact on productivity and mention job satisfaction, if we could halve the time spent on red tape?

28 days to change a habit
Our inclination to cling to the red is strong, so reducing red tape will be a long-term endeavour. Our progress may be sporadic. Hit and miss even. But it’s a worthwhile goal. Imagine the rewards... 300 hours a year to do interesting, productive, worthwhile stuff. Yes, please!

5 elements of good red tape
So what is our ambition exactly? Surely not to expunge all red tape forever? How do we decide when it’s appropriate and when it’s OTT? Sometimes there are really sound reasons to use regulation or compliance activities—financial management and transparency springs to mind. But other times, the process seems to be at the cost of the impact we’re trying to achieve. So, when I approach my work, I have a checklist that I keep on my desk to verify that a red tape or regulatory process is healthy and worthwhile:

1. Minimal

2. Proportional

3. Coherent and not duplicative

4. Stakeholder-informed

5. Relevant

The jungle now feels far less wild.


Stephanie Foster        


A good place to cut red tape is in the procurement area. The DoF SPORG group are currently implementing new Free Trade Agreement rules that are to apply across the Commonwealth. These frequently include mandatory inflexible procurement processes. These new rules create red tape processes such as conducting tenders so that we can be seen to be inclusionary to foreign suppliers even when that is not needed by the purchaser and is also against the overall economic interest of Australia. Other countries such as China and the USA have a different approach to Australia. They are also signatures to the agreement but have no compunction in looking after their own business, interests and people. I suggest that the current legal advisers are locked into the thinking of the past 25 years. You should consider changing the legal advisers on implementing free trade agreements to move on from the past thinking and find some lawyers who have a better appreciation of making free trade agreement compliant decisions that benefit Australia and not just benefit foreign partners. This opportunity to cut back on red tape requires people at the top to have a hard think about what is being achieved. Perhaps it is time to think in a more sophisticated way rather than just following the Adam Smith style concept of free markets. The World is moving on in its thinking, can the "cut the red tape" initiative be a catalyst for Australia to move on for the benefit of all Australians?
Thanks for the comment. While this isn't the place to debate the merits of trade policy, your comment has been passed on to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their consideration. Please note further comment going to the issue of government policy is likely to be moderated but we welcome views on how best to cut internal red tape.