Today the Turnbull Government has introduced a significant package of legislation to simplify and strengthen Australia’s competition law. These reforms are designed to better target anti‑competitive conduct while supporting pro‑competitive behaviour.
Together with reforms to the misuse of market power provision, which are already before the Parliament, this package moves towards the Turnbull Government’s aim of stronger competition in our markets, to improve the long-term welfare of consumers, businesses and ultimately the economy.
This legislation is also a major step towards implementing the competition law recommendations of the Harper Competition Policy Review which include:
- replacing the never-used and unworkable price-signalling provisions with a general prohibition on concerted practices with the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition;
- folding the merger clearance and authorisation processes into the general authorisation process. This means the ACCC will now hear applications for merger authorisation, and its decisions will be reviewable by the Australian Competition Tribunal;
- enabling the ACCC to issue class exemptions, which will provide safe harbours for conduct that does not raise competition concerns. Where a class exemption has been issued, businesses will not need to make individual applications to the ACCC for authorisation or notification;
- simplifying complex provisions relating to authorisations;
- broadening the joint venture exemptions to the cartel conduct prohibitions, to better reflect the reality of how joint ventures operate, while strengthening the safeguards around the exemptions; and
- changing declaration criteria to make the National Access Regime more effective.
Consumers will benefit from greater choice and the availability of the best quality goods and services at the lowest prices. Businesses will benefit from a competitive environment in which new and innovative firms can enter existing markets, and new markets are created. The Australian economy will benefit from the introduction of new technologies into Australia, and more agile local firms which are better able to compete in international markets.
The Bill is a key step towards ensuring strong competition, which drives businesses to operate more efficiently, improve quality, lower prices, innovate and invest in new technology.