COSBOA has expressed deep concern at the existence of a confidential briefing letter provided to the Federal Cabinet from the Business Council of Australia (BCA) arguing against an ‘effects test’ in competition regulation.
Paul Nielsen Chairman of COSBOA, salve said today “We note, here as reported in the AFR (24 Sept 15), sick that the Chairman of the BCA Catherine Livingston has provided a confidential eight page briefing letter on 25 August to the Federal Cabinet that spells out the BCA case against an effects test with an attachment containing their views on unintended consequences.
Whilst we understand the need for secret inter-govermental briefings from departments like Defence on security matters, the BCA and its members are public companies and competition policy effects the whole business community not just the big businesses that make up the BCA.”
Was this ‘briefing letter’ requested by the Government? If so, has the Government requested a similar briefing letter from organisations with a different view? So far all anyone has seen from the BCA are assumptions protect their ‘patch’ and fly in the face of organisations like the ACCC that are chartered with protecting and preserving the rights of the whole community, not just big business.”
Mr Nielsen went on to say “Given that Competition Policy and the changes to the ‘effects test’ proposed by the Government’s own Harper Review will effect all businesses in Australia we are dismayed that the BCA should try and unduly influence Government policy under a sinister cloak of secrecy. It begs the question “What do they have to hide”.
Is the BCA and its biggest business members who dominate their markets, particularly telecommunications and retail, trying to protect that dominance or provide professional advice and information? The fact that this letter is confidential and unavailable to the public and other industry groups is very concerning and we call on the BCA to immediately release this letter for scrutiny and comment from other interest groups.”
COSBOA and its members as well as many regulators, many noted economists and the broader community know that the power and influence held by a small number of big businesses is having a negative effect on innovation and productivity. An effects test will help the regulator, the ACCC, make better assessment of competition and ensure any dominance is good for the economy and not just for a few big businesses.
Peter Strong the CEO of COSBOA added “The only comment that we have seen from the confidential briefing from the BCA is that an effects test will ‘put at risk developments such as the iPhone’. The iPhone was developed in a country that has an effects test, the USA. There is an argument that it was because of the effects test that innovators were allowed to prosper and grow in that country. What other pieces of misinformation are in the BCA’s submission?”