Opinion: Red tape is annoying, but essential

It was interesting and rather depressing to see Donald Trump’s performance with the folders of ‘red tape’ tossing them aside.

“Who reads this stuff, we don’t need it.”

I had just read commentary on some those protections removed within the red tape and they seemed highly desirable for the good of all and not something to be flung aside for profit.

The other image was the fire in London and the news that not long before, Tory MPs were congratulating one another on reducing red tape around building and fire regulations.

Why is there red tape and why is it so onerous on business? It can seem ridiculous. A friend wanting to put some tables outside his restaurant had to submit the request to seven different areas, several just sections in the same large government department. Each form had to be separately prepared and presented addressing the issue for the section, bus stops, pedestrian access, and so on – I forget them all.

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Some councils take everything to a council meeting vote on it, have an issue, defer it till next meeting find another issue and it can take months, if not years until every single issue is raised and addressed or resolution found impossible. Many developments die off during this process with the developer finding a more accomodating council or giving up altogether. Locally, we lost an Aldi store due to council delays.

The fire in the high rise in London demonstrated clearly why we need red tape. It can be onerous on developers to add in features that might never be used plus the cost and loss of useable and sellable space in providing fire stairs. Building material maybe more expensive, but this fire demonstrated clearly how necessary it is.

The inspections required to check all fire suppressing systems are working may be expensive and time consuming too.

In Australia testing has shown that despite regulations banning certain chemical substances and material like asbestos, it is still coming into the country. The government body that is tasked with preventing this apparently never tests material to see it is true to label but just rubber stamps the deceptive and mislabeled shipments.

Likewise with environmental issues that prevent or restrict mining or industry; often the fines for breaches of conditions put in place to protect the environment are so low to a multimillion dollar industry it is rather like being beaten with a limp lettuce leaf. The impact on the environment of a breach may last for years and in some cases cause permanent damage.

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Miners are welcomed though, with no realistic advance provision for cleaning up the site; profit is shifted off shore, and the company in Australia goes ‘broke’ and is unable to be chased for remedial work on their site. There are toxic tailings dams left unattended just waiting for torrential rains to breach their walls and the toxin to flow into creeks and rivers.

Without a doubt there is some red tape that is unnecessarily restrictive and might need removing or changing but a large amount is there to protect something. Maybe instead of celebrating the freeing up of investment by reducing red tape, we should be more suspicious of the motive for removal, and think on why the red tape was there in the first place and what was it designed to protect.

Do you agree with Barbara that red tape may be annoying, but it serves an important purpose?