Regulators told to lay off small business

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Regulators can do more to reduce the compliance and enforcement burdens they impose on small businesses, according to a report released by the Productivity Commission.

The Commission said that regulators should ensure they understand how their regulation impacts on small business and keep the compliance capacity of small businesses at the forefront of their minds.

“A regulator's culture and attitude towards business can be as important as the content of the regulation itself. There is still significant scope for improvement in the way regulators engage with small businesses,” said Commissioner Dr Warren Mundy.

Peter Strong, Executive Director of COSBOA said the report is a landmark moment for the entire small business community, because it is a review that focuses squarely on the specific needs of small businesses.

“Is a report that sets up a template for regulators to better work with small business people in order to help them - not hinder - to achieve the best outcomes for business, for the community and for individuals,” says Strong.

COSBOA in its consultations with small business people has found that they are tired of rhetoric about the importance of small business people; for it has rarely been matched by outcomes. However, COSBOA says this report has the power to change all that.

“This report is a positive and constructive response that shows we have been heard. The message from this report is loud and clear - stop and consider the impact of regulation on the small business person, their business and their capacity to continue in business,” says Strong.

The report proposes a suite of changes which need to be implemented by Commonwealth, state and territory, and local governments:

  • Regulators should adopt a multi-channel approach to communicating with small businesses with a focus on the brevity, clarity and accessibility of information.
  • Compliance and enforcement strategies should be proportionate to risks posed to communities and facilitate voluntary compliance.
  • Regulators should commit publicly to target timeframes for key processes, report on their performance in meeting targets, and consider other measures to improve timeliness.
  • Regulators should have access to a sufficient range of enforcement tools and be resourced to do their job effectively, to avoid the shifting of direct and indirect costs onto businesses.

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