MGA and other industry associations are lobbying members of parliament, particularly the coalition, to support Minister for Small Business and Competition Matters Bruce Billson to follow through with Harper’s recommendation to amend section 46 of the National Competition Policy.
The proposed amendment states: “A corporation that has a substantial degree of power in a market shall not engage in conduct that has the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition in that or any other market”.
The new law means that firms with substantial market power will not be able to engage in conduct that has the purpose or effect or likely effect of lessening competition.
Until now, the ACCC has been forced to prove “purpose”, which is difficult, without access to internal company documentation or evidence from a whistleblower. The “effects” test gives the ACCC greater ability to challenge a misuse of market power and anti-competitive behaviour.
Speaking at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Leaders’ Summit on August 17, Treasurer Joe Hockey said the Government has discussed and will continue to discuss potential revisions to competition policy.
“It’s not a black and white issue,” he said, “particularly given changes in the Australian economy. I’m working it through with Bruce Billson, the Minister for Small Business. He is a fantastic advocate for small business, there’s no doubt about that. And he is the minister primarily responsible for competition law.
“But ultimately, as Treasurer, I am involved and I’m very willingly involved. I must reflect on the fact that I first came across this issue many, many years ago when I was Minister for Competition Policy, in 1998 as Financial Services Minister and Small Business Minister three years later, so I’ve been following this issue rather closely for many years.
“It is a hotly contested issue, but we’ll leave our discussions about it to internal processes and I’m sure you’ll be reasonably pleased with the result.”