Darren B.
Darren Brown

Queenslanders may not be aware of the role or occurrence of government regulation in their day-to-day lives. However, it is fundamental to protecting their rights, ensuring appropriate safety standards are met, and for protecting the environment. It involves or impacts all if not every industry.

Over recent years, a variety of our audits examined how entities are performing in their regulation of various industries and services, and how effective they are in overseeing regulatory functions.

Our audit topics have been broad ranging—from regulating firearms, animal welfare, food safety, to pharmacy ownership, mining and coal seam gas, and dam safety.

But what we found was often the same. Good regulatory performance in enforcing minimum prescribed standards was—and continues to be—often absent. 

Significant improvement is needed across government. So we reflected on our various findings and recommendations to develop insights and wider learnings for all entities involved in regulation. Our principles-based model guides entities to:

  • plan to be intelligence-led
  • act to ensure compliance
  • report transparently for accountability
  • learn through continuous improvement.

Good regulatory practices that promote compliance, minimise failures and enable opportunities for improvement are indispensable to the operations of government.

Plan to be intelligence-led

Intelligence-led regulation is about effectively using data and information to inform decision-making for effective, efficient, and economical outcomes and compliance. This enhances planning and enables entities to target the behaviours and conduct that pose the highest risk. It needs to be underpinned by:

  • a clear understanding of the entity’s regulatory role, functions, and objectives
  • fit-for-purpose information systems and plans that support effective data collection and use, and enable a good understanding of the regulated population and industry
  • collaboration and information sharing with regulators and regulated entities
  • risk and compliance prioritisation frameworks to target the areas of highest priority within the risk categories.

Act to ensure compliance

Regardless of how well regulators conduct their compliance monitoring and planning, it will be of little value if they do not actually implement the plans. To be effective, regulators need to:

  • act to implement their compliance monitoring and enforcement plans (proactive) and act on complaints (reactive)
  • provide timely decisions, clearly articulate expectations, and explain the underlying reasons for decisions. This will help regulated entities to understand what is expected of them and how to achieve the compliance outcomes
  • follow through and make sure the regulated person or organisation has become compliant
  • be consistent in their interpretations and application of the legislation across all regulated entities.

Report transparently for accountability

To increase transparency and accountability, regulators need to publicly report against key performance measures for example:

  • effectiveness measures that monitor trends in compliance or reduction in non-compliance
  • management-level efficiency indicators to monitor and report on operations and services, including timeliness of decision-making
  • quality measures relating to accuracy of evidence gathered for escalating non-compliance cases.

In developing performance reporting, regulators should integrate the measures into their existing systems and ensure they have evidence to support the performance reports.

Learn through continuous improvement

It is important for regulators to identify where their regulatory activities are working and what needs to be improved. By doing this, they can identify issues, gaps, and where they need better education and resourcing. Continuous improvement processes aim to ensure legislation remains relevant over time and that regulatory activities:

  • are prioritised with reference to impact on stakeholders and the community
  • are risk-based
  • leverage technological innovation.

We believe these insights and wider learnings will help regulators assess, and where needed, improve their regulatory approaches and performance.

Further detail on our insights and wider learnings can be found in chapter 4 of Report 6: 2021-22 Regulating animal welfare services, and in our supporting guidance material on our website.