Opinion: Regulation should not get in the way of doing business

By Paul Nicolaou

July 26, 2022

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Striking the right balance with regulatory experimentation is necessary, says Business Sydney. (tippapatt/Adobe)

Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote from over 250 years ago that “out of adversity comes opportunity” still rings true today as we reflect on the impacts of COVID and capitalise on some of the benefits of the regulatory changes brought on by the pandemic that have enhanced our personal and professional lives.

For example, we are all more conscious about personal hygiene and how improved handwashing, cough-covering and social distancing reduces the spread of disease. While we don’t want to return to mask-wearing and travel mandates, we have all benefited from this improvement in knowledge of looking after our own and the community’s health, which will assist in the event of another pandemic.

The benefits of many of the changes to regulations covering aspects of doing business have become clearer and so it is timely that the NSW Productivity Commission brought together business and regulators to consider its analysis and evaluation of the reduction of many regulations that allowed greater flexibility for businesses and consumers. 

Many have led to increases in productivity in numerous industries and Productivity Commissioner Peter Achterstraat says the goal is to “Evaluate the COVID-19 regulations and retain the ones that worked” and this will herald invaluable benefits to businesses of all sizes and shapes and form part of important economic reform.

These reforms helped keep many businesses afloat and people in jobs.

The Productivity Commission’s symposium highlighted how government and its regulatory agencies can better collaborate and work with businesses to produce permanent reductions in red tape and regulations that produce productivity improvements.

Governments – state and local – have shown during the pandemic how improved consultation and cooperation with business leaders and representative groups like ours, can benefit the whole community and boost economic activity.

The NSW state government led by premiers Berejiklian and Perrottet demonstrated willingness to listen to and learn from business in a myriad of meetings and large gatherings like the summits it held with business and community leaders to reactivate the CBD. Reducing regulation was championed by ministers like Rob Stokes that made it easier for hospitality and other sectors to trade and keep afloat during the worst of the COVID lockdowns.

Some of the obvious regulatory changes around things like al-fresco dining, dark kitchens, extended trading and delivery hours and better use of public spaces to conduct business and safely socialise have been made permanent but there are many more that need to be examined for their benefits to productivity and consumer convenience.

These should be evaluated and hopefully made permanent, albeit with any necessary amendments.

We have now become increasingly accustomed to the latest phase in dealing with the pandemic, i.e., ‘living with COVID’ and so we should continue in the quest to find new and improved changes to regulations that will enhance doing business as well as working and living safely in our great state.

Regulation is vital to protecting business and consumer welfare, but, as we have focused on more closely in recent times, it should not get in the way of doing businesses and allowing businesses to quickly make changes to expand or innovate to withstand the adverse impacts from the pandemic. Striking the right balance with regulatory experimentation is necessary for allowing best-practice reform that will continue to accelerate economic recovery.


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