What is red tape?

Red tape

a process or other requirement of government perceived to impose an unwelcome burden on business, community organisations or individuals.

Internal red tape

red tape imposed on Australian Government entities only, as distinct from red tape in regulation that applies beyond the public sector (eg taxation and privacy legislation).

such regulation that doesn’t achieve its purpose, goes too far beyond its purpose, imposes a compliance burden that is out of all proportion to the risk it was made to manage, is obsolete or duplicative or otherwise breaches the principles for internal regulation articulated in the Belcher Review.


broadly, regulation is any rule endorsed by government where there is an expectation of compliance. It includes legislation, regulations, quasi-regulations, and any other aspect of regulator behaviour that can influence or compel specific behaviour by business and the community. It also includes the red tape imposed by the Commonwealth’s procurement, grants and the cost-recovery frameworks. For more information see the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) - User Guide to the Australian Government Guide to Regulation.

See also the Australian Government reform agenda to cut red tape that imposes unwelcome burdens on business, community organisations and individuals.

Internal regulation

requirements that are mandatory for all or most entities, or guidance, practice or procedure that is treated as such. Regulations that apply beyond the public sector, for example taxation and privacy legislation, were beyond the scope of the Belcher review.

Self-imposed internal red tape

red tape imposed by an Australian Government entity on itself.