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State regulators are playing a prominent role

WESTERN Australian regulators have been very prominent over the past year.

The agencies on the list all have substantial autonomous power and their decisions can have a profound impact on the business sector.

Many observers believe the regulators have too much influence and that their political masters should be more closely involved in major decisions.

The most prominent example is the Office of Gas Access Regulation, headed by Ken Michael, who was a former Main Roads commissioner and is current University of WA chancellor and East Perth Redevelopment Authority chairman.

The protracted and controversial decision making over gas tariffs on the Dampier to Bunbury gas pipeline has led many people to conclude that WA has become a more risky place to invest.

The Office of State Revenue, headed by Commissioner Bill Sullivan, is another regulator with extraordinary power.

Its unprecedented – and ultimately unsuccessful – attempt to impose a multi-million dollar stamp duty levy on Westralia Airports Corporation last year has also left people muttering about sovereign risk.

At a day-to-day level, many businesses are concerned about the extremely powerful investigative powers of the agency, which administers stamp duty, payroll tax and land tax.

Its recent, unsuccessful tilt at widening its powers had many in business complaining that it would become the most powerful revenue collection agency in the land.

Auditor General Des Pearson plays a powerful watchdog role, subjecting Government agencies to close scrutiny.

The Department of Consumer and Employment Protection, headed by Director General Brian Bradley, has tentacles reaching into most areas of business, through its consumer protection, labour relations, worksafe and energy safety divisions.

The establishment of three new agencies later this year will substantially change the regulatory picture.

The Economic Regulation Authority will be a ‘super regulator’, bringing together the powers of existing agencies in the electricity, gas, water and rail industries.

The Corruption and Crime Commission will replace the controversial Anti Corruption Commission.

The ACC came in for some criticism during hearings for the Royal Commission into Police Corruption.

The CCC will have all the powers of a Royal Commission to investigate alleged corruption by police and public officers as well as organised crime.

Its budget will be $21 million, more than double that of the ACC.

A third new regulatory agency is Racing and Wagering Western Australia, which will run the TAB and the three codes – racing, pacing and chasing.

The WA Trotting Association famously hired lobbyist and former Premier Brian Burke to double its representation on the board of the new agency.

The Turf Club and the Trotting Association will each have two representatives on the 10-member board while the greyhound association will have one representative.

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