New Tools and Insights into Australia’s Regulatory Landscape

Introducing RegData Australia 2.3


The QuantGov team at the Mercatus Center has released RegData Australia 2.3, an update which includes a fourth year of data. The first project of its kind, RegData allows for the most comprehensive count of regulatory restrictions available in several countries. It has become a go-to resource for many government officials, academics, journalists and other experts, and provides a detailed look into Australia’s regulatory landscape.

RegData Australia compiles and quantifies Australian acts and legislative instruments (known as statutes and regulations in the United States) and contains data series consisting of restriction counts and word counts. The restriction count is simply the number of times that the legally binding terms shall, must, may not, required, and prohibited occur in the legal documents being examined. We hope this data product will facilitate academic analyses and comparisons with other legal systems that the QuantGov team has produced data for, such as RegData U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and India.

RegData Australia was built by web scraping the statutory and regulatory codes of Australian government websites, converting the scraped websites into text files and running the QuantGov utilities program on the text files to produce data series. Because this data is scraped from various government websites, its completeness and accuracy is contingent on the quality of the government websites. The data series can be found on the new portal. On RegHub, users can choose to bulk download complete sets of machine-readable documents for their own research and machine learning algorithms. Users can also search complete sets of documents for keywords and download document metadata. As in previous years, the data is also available via the QuantGov API.

Overall, there were 34,080 documents collected for this year. This is a 1.27% increase over RegData Australia 2.2 where 33,652 documents were collected. The total number of words over all documents increased 2.54% from 177.81 million to 182.33 million and the number of restrictions increased by 1.83% from 972,643 to 990,469.

At the federal level, this product compiles and quantifies Australian acts and legislative instruments as well as notifiable instruments, a relatively new instrument introduced in 2015. Notifiable instruments are policies expected to be of long-term public interest for which accessibility and centralized management is desirable.

Of these three categories, notifiable instruments saw the largest change with a 38.01% increase in the number of documents and an 11.65% increase in the number of restrictions. While this is a large change, this is not out of line with previous years’ increases. 2021 saw a 36.65% increase in the number of restrictions and 2020 saw a 14.85% increase in the number of restrictions.

Most changes in the number of documents and number of restrictions at the state level were between 4% and 5% increases or decreases. Exceptions include a 15.2% increase in the number of environmental planning instruments for New South Wales. These are not exactly legislative instruments (regulations), although they are similar in that they are made under the authority of an act.

However, the removed documents only resulted in a 0.05% decrease in the total number of restrictions. Additionally, there was an 8.68% increase in the number of restrictions in New South Wales regulations. This was due to a variety of regulations pertaining to the environment, public health and worker safety being added.

Insights like these and more can be gleaned from the documents provided in the QuantGov library within the RegData Australia package. To learn more, follow us on social media, subscribe to our newsletter, and contact us at [email protected].