Touted as the most significant review in 20 years, the report from a panel led by Professor Ian Harper puts forth several recommendations to create more favourable conditions for the small business players in Australia.
The independent review has suggested amendments to section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act, prohibiting any conduct on the part of larger firms that can diminish or adversely affect market competition.
Welcoming the recommendations, Kate Camell, AO and CEO of the ACCI (Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) said, “These amendments go a long way towards addressing the concerns small businesses have about misuse of market power by larger suppliers and customers. They strike the right balance between prohibiting anti-competitive conduct and encouraging efficiency, innovation and entrepreneurship.”
In a bid to open up more opportunities for employment, and to benefit consumers and traders alike, the report suggests lifting all restrictions from trading hours. An important provision on alcohol and gambling restrictions has also been drafted.
The panel has put forth suggestions to fortify protections against trading restrictions in industrial agreements. This is expected to help businesses supply and acquire goods and services which would include contractual labour.
Regarding human services, the report proposes several introductions and changes that allow greater participation from competitive forces, thereby encouraging innovation and consequent diversification of services.
Considering competitive neutrality, the Harper review recommends revisiting and improving complaint-monitoring and handling procedures.
Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson said, “The Abbott Government welcomes the Panel’s final report, supports the broad direction and will carefully and diligently work through and consider the final report’s recommendations. It is recognised that the report’s recommendations aim to promote more dynamic, competitive and well‑functioning markets, and seek to engage all levels of government, policy makers and the community in pursuit of this ambition. The Panel benefited from intense stakeholder engagement with more than one thousand public submissions received throughout the Panel’s considerations.”
Mr Billson has also announced an 8-week consultation programme to discuss the recommendations put forth by the Competition Policy Review Panel. He said, “I will not rush into making changes before I have considered the implications and a range of implementation options. The reform process must be staged, consultative and collaborative and deliver real improvements to our competition framework for the benefit of Australians.”
A formal response from the federal government to this report will be formulated in the second half of the year.
The independent review is being welcomed as a commendable step towards the creation of a fairer and more competitive economy.