THE COMPETITION DEBATE CONTINUES AT NATIONAL SUMMIT
The debate about the fairness and effectiveness of Harper’s Competition Policy Review continued today at the Vodafone National Small Business Summit at the panel: Will Harper hinder or help?
Panellists supporting small and big business agreed on the majority of the 56 recommendations from the Harper review, pharm but strongly disagreed on Section 46 and the ‘effects test’ that governs the misuse of market power.
Su McCluskey who was part of the Competition Policy Review Panel, hospital said “Choice was at the heart of the review and creating a level playing field for business. The reality is small and big and in-between exist, prescription however how do you ensure an open and competitive market where people don’t get unfairly treated. Market power isn’t a crime: misuse of the power is really what we need to address. What the law should be doing when people are bad.
“We believe the review is strong and robust and we welcome discussion and debate,” completed Ms McCluskey.
Representing big business, and on behalf of the Business Council of Australia, Danny Gilbert, Managing Partner at Gilbert + Tobin an independent law firm challenged the panel of majority pro small business.
“This is an incredibly important review that has been undertaken. Business Council of Australia supports the majority of the recommendations, but not all.
“One might be forgiven for being concerned about dominant companies like Woolworths and Coles, but they are what they are. Market power is not a sin – it is the use of market power that matters. Recommendations around governance for competition is in the right direction – except for Section 46.”
Responding to the question, Will Harper’s recommendations help us? And on behalf of small business, Jos De Bruin, CEO, Master Grocers Australia commented, “Well, Coles and Woolworths must think so because the Big Two have been working ferociously to kill off any change. Coles and Woolworths just do not want to see any strengthening of the ACCCS’s hand when it comes to the misuse of market power. And that must tell you something.
Mr De Bruin believes that the Harper review is on the right track. “It is based on the voices of 100s and not just two and is in the national interest. Big businesses have become bigger, small have become smaller, all are eaten alive and the consumers have less and less choice. This is not the Australia that we want.”
Speaking on behalf of the Council of Small Business, CEO, Peter Strong commented, “Any business who is afraid of the effects test must have a very fragile business plan. We fully support all aspects of the Competition Policy Review and continue to recommend implementation on Section 46 to the government and on behalf of small business.”
The consensus from the panel was that a competitive market delivers innovation, flexibility, and customer choice and is the most efficient way for the economy to operate. Reform is needed in the misuse of market power.
Panellists for Will Harper hinder or help? included:
• Dr Michael Schaper, Deputy Chair, ACCC
• Matthew Lobb – GM Industry Strategy & Public Policy,
• Jos De Bruin – CEO – Master Grocers Australia & Liquor Retailers Australia
• Su McCluskey – Competition Review Panel
• Danny Gilbert, Managing Partner at Gilbert + Tobin
Chaired by Professor Ian Harper, the Competition Policy Review sought to improve the Australian economy by ensuring a fair playing field in the interest of consumers.
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