Red tape cutbacks face Senate hurdle

The federal government will face opposition in the Senate when it tries to take an axe to thousands of regulations it says impose a multibillion-dollar burden on business and community organisations.

The government wants to repeal more than 8000 redundant laws, some of which date back to the early 20th century. But it will need support from Labor and the Greens to get the proposed changes through the upper house.

Repeal Day is scheduled for the House of Representatives on March 26, following the introduction of a broad-ranging red tape reduction bill and a series of deregulation bills on March 19.

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne said the previous Labor governments over six years introduced more than 21,000 regulations.

The Coalition went to last year's election promising a $1 billion a year benefit to business from axing regulation.

During the campaign, the Coalition gave the examples of national childcare law that runs to 180 pages plus 345 pages of regulations and 1150 pages of guidelines.

Universities employ up to 20 staff each to deal with compliance with more than 100 laws.

And more than 200 Indigenous programs are administered by 17 agencies with their own forms and processes.

One of the more bizarre examples of targeted laws is the sale of suntan lotion, which is covered by one regulator if sold in a 300 millilitre bottle but another if it is in a larger bottle.

Acting Greens leader Richard Di Natale said his party - which until July 2014 holds the balance of power in the Senate - was happy to work on a "spring clean", but said the government's approach was too heavy handed.

"Tony Abbott isn't using a feather duster, he's using a wrecking ball," said Senator Di Natale.

Labor's acting finance spokesman Andrew Leigh said his party believed regulation should be minimal, but was needed to ensure a "safe, efficient and fair society".

He gave the example of the national harmonisation of work health and safety.

"Society benefits from good regulations - on food safety, banking and air travel - but none of us wants regulatory overreach."

The number of regulations per year was higher under the Howard government (372) than under Labor (302), he said. AAP

Picture ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Picture ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

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