Do regulatory restrictions adversely impact competition in your industry? Should misuse of market power be analysed by its effect rather than its purpose? Is it effective to have three different merger clearance processes? What is your experience in dealing with the ACCC?

You now have the opportunity to comment on these and any other issues that you see as affecting the competitive process in Australia. Read on to learn more.

'Root and branch' review of Australia's competition laws and policy

On 14 April 2014 the Competition Policy Review Panel, appointed by the Federal Government to conduct a "root and branch" review of Australia's competition laws and policy, released its Issues Paper (available here). The Issues Paper is open for submissions until 10 June 2014.

The review was announced in December 2013 and the Panel appointed in March 2014. Its overarching objective is to identify areas for micro-economic reform to stimulate competition and drive ongoing productivity growth and better standards of living. It is the first major review since the National Competition Policy Review (known as the Hilmer review) in 1993 and will take account of significant changes to the Australian economy over the last twenty years, such as globalisation, innovation, and demographic changes.

The Terms of Reference for the review are very wide-ranging, examining not just the working of the current competition laws and institutions but also any barriers or impediments to competition in the Australian economy.

Issues Paper

The Issues Paper is the first step in the work of the Panel and proceeds very much as a scoping document, seeking stakeholder feedback on a series of issues in order to shape the direction of the review and identify priorities. In releasing the Issues Paper, Professor Ian Harper, Chair of the Panel, stated:

"[T]hese issues are only a start and just a guide. Importantly, the Issues Paper is about asking questions, rather than setting out any concluded or preconceived views."1

Indeed the Issues Paper poses over 50 questions. It is structured into six chapters each containing one or two "key" questions and a number of sub-questions arising from the Terms of Reference.

Key questions

The key questions outlined in the Issues Paper are:

  1. What should be the priorities for a competition policy reform agenda to ensure that efficient businesses, large or small, can compete effectively and drive growth in productivity and living standards?
  2. Are there unwarranted regulatory impediments to competition in any sector in Australia that should be removed or altered?
  3. Are government-provided goods and services delivered in a manner conducive to competition, while meeting other policy objectives?
  4. Is there a need for further competition-related reform in infrastructure sectors with a history of heavy government involvement (such as the water, energy and transport sectors)?
  5. Would there be a public benefit in encouraging greater competition and choice in sectors with substantial government participation (including education, health and disability care and support)?
  6. Are the current competition laws working effectively to promote competitive markets, given increasing globalisation, changing market and social structures, and technological change?
  7. Are competition-related institutions functioning effectively and promoting efficient outcomes for consumers and the maximum scope for industry participation?
  8. What institutional arrangements would best support a self-sustaining process for continual competition policy reform and review?

How to get involved

You may make a formal submission on any aspect covered by Issues Paper - or any issue that you believe should be included within the scope of the review. Alternatively, you may submit your thoughts on any or all of the 8 key questions outlined above via an online portal on the review's website. Submissions may be made confidentially.

The Issues Paper will be followed by a draft report later in 2014 and a final report within 12 months.

The Panel intends to hold extensive public consultation at each stage of the review including public forums, written submissions, stakeholder feedback and a conference following the release of its draft report. Details of consultations will be made available on the review's website. You can also subscribe to receive email updates about when and where the panel is holding consultation meetings.


1Release of Issues Paper, 14 April 2014

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.