Competition policy can be extended to human services

A number of key recommendations of the Competition Policy Review Final Report are about driving choice for consumers, Professor Ian Harper has told a CEDA audience in Melbourne.



Discussing the recommendations in his first public address since the report release, Professor Harper said competition policy can also apply to human services including health, education and welfare.

“What we hope we have done is provide the Government, the people with an over-arching framework within which you could think about ways the public provision of these services could be more easily contested with the end result of giving people greater choice while of course preserving access and equity,” he said.

On budgetary measures, Professor Harper said the report doesn’t speak to funding.

“This is all about how to drive choice and diversity and flexibility,” he said.

“In the area of human services for instance health in particular we make it quite clear, we’re not talking about reducing or increasing…the funds that are available for this,” he said.

“This is about how you can generate improved productivity from both sides.”

Another aspect of the report recommendations refer to misuse of market power in Section 46 of the Australian Competition and Consumer Act.

“The existing law is uncertain because of the way it’s phrased,” he said.

“Our recommendation was to align section 46 with the rest of the Act and to move the focus away from the impact on competitors to the competitive process,” he said.

“We understand that having market power is not illegal,” he said.

“Being large enough that you have market power is not against the law and it shouldn’t be against the law,” he said.

Discussing implementation of the recommendations in the Report, Professor Harper said many of the areas examined are joint jurisdictions between the Commonwealth, states and territories.

“In order for these ideas to be taken up, it doesn’t require all of the governments to agree,” he said.

“(However), our view is that if there were a multilateral approach and all of the governments did agree to a national approach to this as they did following the Hilmer Report 20 years ago, that would have the greatest chance of maximum benefits.”

To coincide with his speech, Professor Ian Harper also contributed to the CEDA blog, read his contribution here.

Professor Ian Harper will also address CEDA's Competition Policy Review event in Brisbane on 23 April 2015.