The federal Government will embrace the Harper review recommendations by specifically supporting 44 of the 56 recommendations in whole or in part.
Depending on the outcome of further review and consultation with the states and territories and other stakeholders, the Government will remain open to the other 12 recommendations – including that regarding Section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act, dealing with misuse of market power.
Treasurer Scott Morrison says the Government acknowledges concerns about the operation of the misuse-of-market-power provision in the act and the need to ensure these provisions enhance rather than inhibit competition.
“We note the Harper review’s recommendations for change and will be embarking on a further and final round of consultation on this issue with the release of a discussion paper specifically on this issue that will canvas a spectrum of options for change beyond the proposition currently before the Government,” he said.
“Comments on this discussion paper will be due by February 12 and I will submit a proposal for Cabinet consideration in response to this issue by the end of March, at which time we will announce a final position.”
MGA Independent Retailers, the employer organisation for independent supermarkets, liquor retailers and hardware stores, says the case for strengthening misuse-of-market-power law is strong and must go ahead after further consultations.
“We’re disappointed that the Government has not adopted changes to Section 46 as recommended by the Harper review after an exhaustive examination of all the issues,” MGA CEO Jos de Bruin said.
“Introducing an effects test, along with other changes, will increase real competition, because it gives the ACCC the power it needs to crack down on anti-competitive practices which have been used by some of Australia’s biggest businesses.
“We will work with a broad coalition of other Australian businesses and rural interests to restate our case to the federal Government to get the right outcome for the majority of Australian businesses – big, medium and small.”
Retail Council CEO Anna McPhee says the Government is to be congratulated for its common-sense approach to implementing a competition reform agenda that increases choice and delivers better services and stronger economic growth.
“The retail sector is particularly encouraged by recommendations, supported by the Government, to reboot competition to drive productivity – like retail trading-hour reform, planning and zoning reform and removing parallel import restrictions,” she said.
“The Government now has a pivotal role to play in consulting with the states to incentivise and encourage microeconomic reform that increases choice, benefits consumers and grows the economy.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also supports the Government’s new microeconomic-reform agenda. Chairman Rod Sims says the body particularly endorses the removal of regulatory barriers to competition across a variety of sectors.
“These reforms are the most significant of their kind in over 20 years and, once implemented, should boost economic growth significantly,” he said.
“The ACCC is also pleased to see recommendations that will simplify the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which will make it easier for businesses to understand their obligations as well as reforms improving merger assessment processes.”