THE draft report of the Competition Policy Review sets the scene for a generational shift in competition policy that addresses the challenges of globalisation and technology while delivering long-term benefits for the whole community, according to the Business Council of Australia (BCA).
BCA chair of Competition Policy Review Working Group Danny Gilbert says the panel has comprehensively outlined how to remove barriers to competition across the economy, while ensuring Australia's competition rules suit the economy.
Gilbert says the report provided clear directions for governments to lift competition through improved competitive neutrality policies, better government procurement, and regulatory frameworks that encourage private investment and ownership.
“The report makes a strong case that Australians would benefit from greater choice and innovation in service delivery if we successfully inject competition into parts of the economy that would benefit the most, such as education, health and infrastructure.”
“Recommendations for specific sectoral reforms, for example in road transport, shipping and retail trading hours, can help those sectors respond to changing economic forces and make a real difference to consumers.
“The proposed reforms to planning and zoning rules will help to facilitate investment that grows the economy, creates jobs and provides local choices for consumers.”
In terms of competition law, Gilbert says the report made many positive recommendations to simplify the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) and make it more relevant to the modern economy, including the repeal of price signalling provisions and changes to the national access regime.
“Proposals to strengthen the definition of markets to include ‘competition from goods imported or capable of being imported into Australia’ are also welcome,” says Gilbert.
Gilbert says the BCA was concerned about possible changes to section 46 of the CCA which could have potential unintended consequences.
“We will address this matter further through the consultation period.”
He says the report made a number of valuable recommendations to ensure Australia had the optimal institutional arrangements to deliver fit-for-purpose competition policy on an ongoing basis.
“The introduction of a pricing and access regulator would be a positive reform. It would create a centre of excellence for access regulation, and provide greater functional clarity for regulators and regulated entities.
“We strongly support the proposal to establish an Australian Council for Competition Policy to progress and re-energise the competition policy reform agenda across the federation, including dealing with states that are adversely affected by competition changes.
“This needs to be a powerful and independent body that reflects the reality that competition is a key driver of innovation and productivity.
“The idea of establishing a board or advisory panel to inject a wider range of expertise into decision making at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also welcome.”
Gilbert says the BCA would provide a detailed submission in response to the draft report and looked forward to engaging with the panel through the upcoming consultation phase.
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