Privatisation must not limit competition: State of the Nation 2014

Privatisation is putting competition at risk, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims has told CEDA’s State of the Nation conference in Canberra.

"Privatising in ways that limit competition in order to maximise sale proceeds is the wrong way to go," he said.

"Such an approach increases the sale proceeds by effectively taxing future generations and Australia's future competitiveness."

Mr Sims also said Australia's pro-competition culture is at risk and it needs another Hilmer style report.

"Australia has lost a lot of its pro-competition culture that it gained from the 1990s National Competition Policy," he said.

"Clearly we need 'Hilmer Mark II', as the current Harper review is styled".
Mr Sims said governments must strike the right balance to both protect markets and enable competition.

"While the ACCC recognises competition laws must strike a careful balance, and not inhibit healthy competitive behaviour, if competition laws are too weak there are large efficiency and welfare losses from systematically poor conduct," he said. 

Wesfarmers and Transfield Services Director, Diane Smith-Gander also addressed the CEDA audience, discussing competition policy.

"One of the issues we are facing in Australia today is a lack of courage to stand up and say where vested interests are," she said.

There is a lack of backbone and pro-competition policy in Australian government and business, she said.

"I do think we as a nation need to all take responsibility for improving our productivity," she said.

"It's not just up to the political process, it's not just up to our regulators…if individuals don't step forward and say that we want change, we're not going to get it." 

Federal Government Competition Policy Review Panel Chairman, Professor Ian Harper said  it's time for government to build political capital for competition policy changes.

"If there were views that people had about efficacy in building the constituency…giving it some backbone, we'd be all ears," he said.

"The world's moved on from the debates and the agreements since the time of Hilmer, the federation is still there.

"If there is some more imaginative way in which the competition agenda that reaches from across the states could be re-energised using those types of incentives then a political will may come from that."