Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
MONDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2001
CB AND MR
160. If it comes from the backbenches with Government
blessing, they do not need to.
(Mavis McDonald) No. I do not think that means we
would not expect the department concerned to be able to answer
some of the questions about the impact if they were supporting
161. That is why I asked about foxhunting. Here
you have a strange piece of legislation which is coming forward
not from Government but with Government blessing that Parliament
shall have a full right to determine it. It seems strange that
you determine it unless you have a credible RIA if you say the
RIA is so important in policy decision. You have not been asked,
or would it be a departmental role?
(Mavis McDonald) It would be for the department in
the first instance to work out how they wanted to proceed.
162. You have not picked up any whispers.
(Mavis McDonald) No. That simply means I do not know.
163. What about a voluntary code? If there is
a voluntary regulatory code, you do not know what is going to
be in it since it is not set up by Government. When an industry
is asked by Government to set up a self-regulating code, do you
get involved in anything like that?
(Mavis McDonald) We do ask departments to look at
applying these principles to developments which are going to have
an impact on industry or business or charities or the voluntary
sector, even where there is not going to be any legislation. I
would assume that in an instance where the industry itself has
asked to develop a voluntary code, that would be a conclusion
reached after a lot of this preliminary assessment had been done.
Certainly I can think of examples where the industry itself has
wanted to discuss a voluntary code as an alternative to regulation,
where the arguments have rested very heavily on the enforcement
cost to the industry if we went down a regulatory route.
164. I am still not clear. Does that mean you
do or you do not?
(Mavis McDonald) We in the centre promote best practice.
We do not tell departments what to do. All we would encourage
them to do is to do an assessment where they thought there was
going to be any impact and that is part of the guidance.
165. Since they do not know what is going to
be in the code if it is a voluntary code ... Never mind, it is
going nowhere really. We have started dabbling again with a last
century practice and a current century Australian practice, free
legislative hearings. At what stage is your information made public?
(Mavis McDonald) We suggest that people consult, and
by and large they do, on the partial regulatory impact assessment
which is the first set of proposals with full options in. That
would be after a decision had been taken in principle to proceed
with the policy change that Ministers had decided to go for.
166. Effectively is it classified information
or not? If you are making one, for example, or when a department
makes one, when they have made their impact assessment, is that
information then treated as confidential in-house information
or is it treated as part of the deliberative process and consultative
process and automatically made available to the public?
(Mavis McDonald) Some of the preliminary exchanges
on whether an RIA is good or bad or weak or could be stronger
sort of information which go on as part of the process of getting
policy clearance are in the normal way confidential within government.
The point at which the decision has been made in principle and
the partial RIA, which is the first shot as it were, goes public
then everything is open in the public domain. We do encourage
departments to put as many options, real options for consultation
out with the partial RIA at that stage, so the whole process of
consultation is meaningful rather than just rubber-stamping decisions
which have already been taken.
167. It is ultimately for Ministers to decide
whether they want to make their particular department's RIA available,
(Mavis McDonald) No, the full process is in the public
domain and at the end of the day Ministers can be challenged if
people think the RIA is not adequate or has failed to pick up
some significant costs or points about the method of implementation.
Chairman: Thank you very much Mrs McDonald for
sharing with us your views on how we can make regulation effective
but not unduly burdensome. We have had a few lighter notes. We
asked Sir Andrew Turnbull last week why it was that not a single
project director had ever become a Permanent Secretary. We look
forward to the day when a former hamburger salesman might become
a Permanent Secretary. Perhaps you might oblige, Mr Andrews. Thank
you very much. Order, order.