Regulation is central to an understanding of law, economics and public policy; it permeates social and economic organisation.
The concept of regulation is complex. Traditionally, regulation was seen as a directed, goal-oriented activity of government, usually involving legislation or quasi-legislation together with enforcement mechanisms. It is now recognised that regulation is much more than an instrument of public policy. The contemporary regulatory environment can be viewed as developing, by design or less deliberately, from the interactions of any of a range of actors – both government and non-government. The regulatory environment includes industry associations, international bodies, non-government organisations, and community groups, and involves mechanisms ranging from rules, codes, monitoring and sanctions, through to much broader mechanisms such as economic penalties and rewards to education and information.
Regulation may be local, national, international and indeed global in its effects. The strategic importance of regulation in daily life is increasing rapidly in countries all around the world, as the effects of globalisation and dynamic technological development grow in their extent and intensity, and national economies and societies become more inter-connected and inter-dependent.
Changes in many sectors of the economy, from energy and transport to telecommunications and manufacturing, have opened up competition and brought with them difficulties in terms of market regulation.
The regulatory sector in Australia is extensive and complex. At federal level there are over 60 major regulatory bodies and in Victoria a recent study undertaken by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission has detailed over 65 different regulatory bodies in the state (excluding those organisations with delegated powers that are external to government).
In Victoria alone, the regulatory industry employs over 9,800 staff and spends over two billion dollars each year on regulation, with 20% or nearly $400 million being spent on enforcement. The industry issues or supervises nearly five million licences and over 225 codes of practice. Victorian regulatory bodies deal with tens of thousands of complaints and have undertaken over 30,000 investigations. As a result of these investigations there have been over 2,000 disciplinary actions, 26,000 penalties and a number of major prosecutions. In addition to this significant commitment of resources by regulators, it is also important to take into consideration the millions of dollars and extensive resources committed by business and industry to the regulatory process.
There is a need to develop regulation as an independent field of teaching and research. The establishment of the Centre is motivated by the need to better understand the various forces that comprise contemporary regulation at both a national and international level, and to provide practitioners and scholars with a core set of ideas, theories and skills to apply to their activities in the field.