The most commonly asked questions

Who writes a RIS?

Policy makers. Every Australian Government policy maker should be familiar with the RIS process, because at some point in your career you will need to write one. Even if you’re not the principal policy officer, you should use the RIS questions as a tool for analysing policy problems.

Is the RIS process mandatory for every government agency?

Yes. For every type of policy decision you must produce a RIS if your organisation is a:

  • government department
  • statutory authority
  • board (even if it has statutory independence)
  • public entity operating under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

A RIS is also required over and above a government agency’s own regulatory impact assessment process, if it has one.

Is a RIS mandatory?

Yes. A RIS is mandatory for all Cabinet submissions.

Even if you think there will be no regulatory impact on businesses, community organisations or individuals, a RIS is mandatory for anything going before Cabinet. The Cabinet needs to be informed of the regulatory impact of any decision it is being asked to make.

If a decision is not going to Cabinet, a RIS is still required where the policy proposal is likely to have a measurable impact on business, community organisations or individuals. This includes new regulations, amendments to existing regulations and,
in some cases, sunsetted regulations being remade.

Even in situations where a RIS may not be required, a RIS is good practice where an agency or regulator is responsible for issuing rules or guidance material for businesses, community organisations or individuals.

When is the best time to write a RIS?

The earlier the better. Don’t wait until your submission is due to go to Cabinet or your senior executive before you starting writing your RIS. Leaving it till last is not only bad process, it may result in bad policy outcomes or leave you open to unfavourable public scrutiny.

Can I be exempted from doing a RIS?

Generally not. The only exemption is for minor matters not being considered by Cabinet where the proposed change is likely to have an insignificant impact.

Failing that, only the Prime Minister can grant an exemption from the RIS and then only in exceptional circumstances. To seek an exemption from the RIS process, your Minister must write to the Prime Minister at the earliest possible stage in the policy-making process.

Do I need a RIS if I’m removing regulation?

In most cases, yes. Even though you may be lowering a regulatory burden, you might be creating new or transitional burdens by changing administrative arrangements. A RIS is critical to ensure you consider the costs and benefits of implementing the proposed change—and every completed RIS helps track and report against the Government’s red tape reduction target.

Who can help me with my RIS?

Your portfolio’s Deregulation Unit. Every portfolio has a Deregulation Unit headed by a senior executive officer. Their job is to ensure your RIS complies with all government requirements, help you develop regulatory impact costings and assist in identifying viable alternative policy options. They are your first port of call for help with navigating the RIS process.

Your Deregulation Unit is responsible for ensuring RIS requirements are met for all decisions. They also have responsibility for reporting to the Government on performance against red tape reduction targets and regulatory offsets.

What’s the role of OBPR?

The Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) has the role of ensuring your RIS complies with government requirements.

You’re welcome to discuss any RIS question with OBPR. OBPR can also help with:

  • assessing the adequacy of analysis;
  • estimating regulatory impact costs and undertake cost–benefit analysis;
  • technical advice on regulatory cost measurement;
  • identifying gaps in your analysis of potential policy options;
  • best practice consultation methods;
  • training and guidance on the RIS process;
  • regulatory proposals for COAG or national standard-setting bodies.

OBPR maintains a public website to report on portfolio RIS compliance, RIS activity and Post Implementation Reviews. The Division is located in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and maintains day-to-day independence from government in its decision making on the RIS system.

Can I use external consultants to write my RIS?

Yes. External consultants can be used to help you write your RIS.

Keep in mind the skills to prepare a RIS are fundamental to the discipline of policy making: engaging external consultants to do the work for you will not build the appropriate in-house skills within your agency.

If engaging a consultant, you must do so under your agency’s normal procurement rules and you must ensure this process does not slow down the RIS. OBPR can help with tender specifications for engaging consultants.

Consultants are often best placed to help with technical aspects of your RIS, such as costings, rather than the whole RIS. When engaging a consultant, your agency is responsible for ensuring the RIS addresses all seven questions adequately, that costings are accurate and the recommended stakeholder consultation is appropriate.

OBPR will not deal directly with consultants, nor manage consultants on your behalf, nor will it provide feedback, comments or assessments directly to consultants. A RIS always remains the responsibility of the agency.