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30 October 2014

Hockey uses 'explosion' over red tape on pizza trip to justify regulation cuts

Treasurer says council regulations prevented him pushing two tables together, hence the need to act on $250bn regulatory drag on economy

Joe Hockey has used a frustrating experience at a pizza restaurant to make a political point about excessive regulation.

The treasurer was officially launching new research on Wednesday that suggested business was as bad as, if not worse than, government in imposing regulations.

The Deloitte report estimated the economy and productivity was being hampered by $250bn worth of red tape each year. Of that, $155bn was self-imposed regulation set by the private sector.

In some cases, the self-imposed rules were just “dumb”, according to Gerhard Vorster, Deloitte’s chief strategy officer and co-author of the report.

Hockey described red tape as a “handbrake” on the economy. “When excessive red tape lowers productivity it ultimately lowers growth and the standard of living for all Australians,” he told an audience in Canberra.

Hockey used a personal experience to emphasise his point. Hockey, his children and family friends were at a local pizza restaurant when they tried to push two outside tables together. An apologetic owner said that wasn’t allowed under council regulations.

Hockey then went inside to get another chair for the group of eight. The owner told him that wasn’t allowed either because the limit was seven chairs.

“That’s when I exploded,” the treasurer said. “I actually tracked down the local mayor ... and I think the whole suburb heard the conversation.”

The launch of the report coincided with the government’s second “repeal day”, where it is ditching nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation and regulations covering 7,200 pages.

The government said it was saving $2.1bn in compliance costs for individuals, businesses and the not-for-profit sector.