Red tape overhaul needed

30 August, 2017

Red tape is stifling the WA economy and a huge cultural change is crucial to improving an under-performing public service, according to a government review.

Premier Mark McGowan handed down an interim report from the Service Priority Review which looks at the functions, operations and culture of the public sector and where improvements can be made.

The review is being led by a three-member panel which has engaged with hundreds of stakeholders, including CCI, to get a better understanding of the positives and pitfalls of the public sector.

McGowan says the review is one of several measures being implemented to drive significant reform and cultural change across the public sector to deliver better services for taxpayers.

The report emphasises the difficult financial situation of the WA Labor Government and the urgent need for public sector reform.

For example, the Office of the Auditor General has identified the potential to save more than $2.2 billion over 10 years by moving services online.

The panel has listened to industry and the business community and acknowledges red tape and doubling-up on regulation constrains the WA economy.

They recommend regulations that avoid unnecessary compliance costs which they believe will attract new industry and business to WA.

They also found the budget process has created some perverse incentives.

Government departments in search of short-term deficit reduction has often resulted in the over-reliance of external contractors and consultants.

Widespread cultural change is also highlighted as a priority for the WA Government.

In particular, encouraging a less risk-averse public sector more willing to collaborate with the private sector is seen as critical for a well-functioning government.

The panel alarmingly discovered a lack of quantitative data measuring the State’s progress towards achieving its aims and objectives, and recommends introducing whole of government targets.  

Where data is available, there is no evidence to suggest that services are better in WA than in other Australian jurisdictions, despite the higher costs of provision in recent years.

For example, WA hospitals performed worse than the national average when it came to emergency room waiting times, with only 65 per cent of patients seen on time (compared to 74 per cent nationally).

CCI Chief Economist Rick Newnham says the report contains good insights and recommendations to Government, but highlights a history of poor performance when it comes to adopting and implementing recommendations in previous reviews.

“CCI encourages the McGowan Government to implement the widespread reforms highlighted in the Service Priority Review,” he says.

►On 7 September the McGowan Government will hand down its first budget. Join us for breakfast as we unpack what the budget will mean for WA business – get your tickets here.