Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 167)



  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 the proposal.

  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, is it?
  (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.

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