Government sets out expectations for regulators in new performance guide

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday July 1, 2021

Ben Morton
Minister assisting the prime minister and cabinet Ben Morton said the report showed Australia had a ‘world-leading’ approach to regulation. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Ben Morton has used the launch of a new guide for commonwealth regulators to remind these entities that while they may be operationally independent of government, they must meet government expectations.

Morton, the assistant minister to the prime minister and cabinet, said the Regulator Performance Guide was a key part of the government’s deregulation agenda, and would lift the performance, capability and culture of regulators.

“This new guide is a part of our broader work to increase accountability, promote best practice, support cultural change and build the professionalism of regulators. It will also streamline regulator performance reporting against these expectations,” he said on Wednesday.

The government has adopted a stewardship approach to regulation where ministers, secretaries and agency heads are responsible for ensuring the regulations and regulatory approaches under their authority are fit for purpose. In line with this, the guide sets out three principles of regulator best practice which entities can apply in a way that best fits their organisation.

The best practice principles include:

  • Continuous improvement and building trust: regulators adopt a whole-of-system perspective, continuously improving their performance, capability and culture to build trust and confidence in Australia’s regulatory settings.
  • Risk based and data driven: regulators manage risks proportionately and maintain essential safeguards while minimising regulatory burden, and leveraging data and digital technology to support those they regulate to comply and grow.
  • Collaboration and engagement: regulators are transparent and responsive communicators, implementing regulations in a modern and collaborative way.

Read more: Regulator performance role to be established within PM&C

These principles underpin the government’s expectations of regulators, Morton noted.

“While regulators are often operationally independent of government, this does not mean independent of expectations or guidance about how they fulfil their statutory roles,” he said.

“Reflecting this, the guide also sets out the government’s policy for issuing Ministerial Statements of Expectations to regulators on the government’s objectives and policies relevant to the regulator’s statutory remit.”

Ministerial Statements of Expectations should be issued or updated every two years, or earlier if there is a change in minister or regulator leadership, or a ‘significant change’ in commonwealth policy, the guide noted. It said the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was working with agencies and ministers to support these activities.

The guide was developed following consultation with stakeholders, including business and consumer groups, regulators and academics, on expectations of regulators.

The document applies from July 1, and replaces the 2014 Regulator Performance Framework. A transition period of one year has been set, to give ministers and agencies time to find the best way to update expectations and reflect the guide in their performance and reporting.

The government has also issued material to support regulators in implementing the guide on the deregulation agenda website.

In a speech on the government’s deregulation agenda last year, Morton announced the establishment of a regulator performance role within PM&C, with the task of driving cultural change, increasing accountability, promoting best practice, and build professionalism of regulators.

He also flagged the development of a regulatory training pilot to be led by PM&C, alongside the Australian Public Service Commission and the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment.

The APSC published a request for tender for such a pilot in February.

Read more: Like describing a hippopotamus: what makes a good regulator?


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