Market economy needs competition: Rod Sims

Competition policy reform is important for Australia’s economy, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman, Rod Sims has told a CEDA audience in Brisbane.

“The importance of the Harper Report is that a market economy needs competition,” he said.

“Without competition…our market economy doesn’t work.”

Discussing the Harper Competition Policy Review’s recommendations Mr Sims said the ACCC is “firmly behind” changes to section 46 – the misuse of market power of the Competition and Consumer Act.

Mr Sims said the law should focus on the competitive process rather than damaging the competitor as it currently does.

“I think all competition lawyers and economists, all public policy people don’t want companies protected from competition but that’s the way the law (currently) is,” he said.

Mr Sims said the Harper Review has recast the law to make sense when there is different interpretations of the current section to what there should be.

“It’s a very common sense way of dealing with the problem but the problem is we have a debate that is off the rails,” he said.

“I think there’s just a whole lot of misunderstanding about what the law is, what the problems with the current law is and what the solution being put forward is.”

Mr Sims said the suggested changes will help bring the Competition and Consumer Act into line with existing law in other countries.  

Also speaking at the event, Competition Policy Review Chair, Professor Ian Harper said the proposed changes to section 46 will help competition and reflect existing international practices. 

“In our view we make these changes and in my view personally first and foremost to bring our act the Competition and Consumer Act up to speed, to make it fit for purpose for the world in which we are travelling,” he said.

Professor Harper said the proposed changes to the law will put the focus back on competition rather than the competitors and be better for the consumer.

On the topic of implementing the Review’s recommendations, Professor Harper said the Federal opposition has already made its position clear.

The Federal opposition will support the recommendations with the exception of deregulation to pharmacies and coastal shipping and the changes to section 46, he said.

“Depending on what the Government decides to do, this is not a matter of going to the Senate and arguing with the minor parties,” he said.

“The Labor Party could turn around and say to the Government we’re ready to vote minister, where are the bills?” he said.

“Even if the Commonwealth Government or Parliament finds itself locked…each of the jurisdictions has the right to progress aspects of this report including pharmacy ownership rules, taxis, retail trading,” he said.

Professor Harper said most of the recommendations can be implemented by the states with the exception of the changes to section 46 given the Competition and Consumer Act is a Federal act.

Professor Ian Harper contributed a piece to coincide with the launch of the Review’s recommendations, click here to read. 

Click here to watch video of Professor Ian Harper delivering the keynote address at CEDA’s Competition Policy Review event in Melbourne.