Government welcomes Competition Policy Review Final Report

Tuesday 31 March 2015:

The Government has today received the Competition Policy Review final report. This report to Government is the first comprehensive assessment of Australia’s competition policies, laws and institutions in more than 20 years.
The independent review was undertaken by a panel led by Professor Ian Harper. The completion of this review delivers on our election commitment and is an important step in advancing our goal to energise enterprise and ensure Australia has competitive, dynamic markets that work in interests of consumers.

We want to ensure that efficient businesses – big and small – can thrive and prosper in our economy and where success in a fair and competitive market is determined on the basis of merit and not purely muscle.

In combination with the recently released Intergenerational Report and the Taxation White Paper discussion draft released yesterday, the Competition Policy Review will help to strengthen our economy by boosting productivity, employment and income growth, steering our course to future prosperity.

Effective competition is the surest way to raise productivity and grow our economy, ultimately resulting in higher living standards, better paying jobs and improvements to our quality of life.

Fierce but fair competition is what drives lower prices at the checkout, better value, fresh offerings and spurs innovation and investment in new technologies.

The Abbott Government welcomes the Panel’s final report, supports the broad direction and will carefully and diligently work through and consider the final report’s recommendations. It is recognised that the report’s recommendations aim to promote more dynamic, competitive and well functioning markets, and seek to engage all levels of government, policy makers and the community in pursuit of this ambition.

The Panel benefited from intense stakeholder engagement with more than one thousand public submissions received throughout the Panel’s considerations.

The Panel makes a number of recommendations to improve competition, remove roadblocks to innovation, and to stimulate the formation and growth of new enterprises that respond to the needs of consumers. All of us, as consumers, stand to benefit from competition reform.

The release of this report builds on the Government’s recent announcements to invigorate Australian start-ups by overhauling the taxation treatment of employee share schemes, our progress towards supporting crowd sourced equity financing and commissioning the Productivity Commission to investigate our workplace relations framework.

For small businesses, the Panel makes many recommendations to assist them to compete. These include a more effective misuse of market power provision in our competition laws and better access to justice when disputes occur. It also recommends a more flexible collective bargaining regime and changes to ensure small businesses are not disadvantaged by the commercial activities of governments.

Before any decisions are taken on implementation, our Government intends to consult with industry and consumers. I will not rush into making changes before I have considered the implications and a range of implementation options. The reform process must be staged, consultative and collaborative and deliver real improvements to our competition framework for the benefit of Australians.

Some of the most important and overdue reform recommendations are for states and territories to consider. The Panel has set a direction for all governments to remove regulatory restrictions to competition unless they are in the public interest. For instance, planning and zoning rules need to work in the long term interests of consumers and not create unnecessary barriers to productivity and suppliers entering and meeting the needs of consumers.

I will work with the Prime Minister to engage with state and territory colleagues over the coming months, to respond to recommendations relevant to each jurisdiction.

Today the Government announces a focussed 8-week consultation on the detailed recommendations made to strengthen Australia’s competition laws.

A full Government response will be formulated in the second half of this year with the view to engaging States and Territories in this area of co-regulation to develop a response action plan by the end of this year.

I thank the Panel members, Secretariat and all who contributed to this once-in-a-generation review for their commitment to competition reform and the health of our nation’s economy. I look forward to hearing stakeholders’ views on these important recommendations.

The full report, together with details of the consultation process, can be found on the Competition Policy Review website: http://competitionpolicyreview.gov.au/.