11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007
JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT
Hon Peter Costello Treasurer
Hon Fran Bailey MP Minister for Small Business and Tourism
GOVERNMENT PROGRESSING TRADE PRACTICES ACT REFORMS
The Treasurer and Minister for Small Business and Tourism today announced the forthcoming program for a number of reforms to the Trade Practice Act1974 (the Act) which will benefit Australian consumers and business, particularly small business.
These reforms have been announced in response to the 2003Review of the Competition Provisions of the Trade Practices Act (the Dawson Review), the 2003Senate inquiry into The effectiveness of the Trade Practices Act1974 in protecting small business (the Senate Report), the 2001Productivity Commission inquiry into the National Access Regime, an Australian Government review of serious cartel conduct, and development of a mandatory horticulture code of conduct to improve business relationships between fruit and vegetable growers and wholesalers.
Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1)2005
The Government’s bill, announced in response to the Dawson Review, was introduced into Parliament last year prior to the Federal Election, but lapsed when the Parliament was prorogued. It has now been reintroduced, debated and passed in the House of Representatives.
The Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1)2005 is the product of the extensive review and consultation process undertaken by the Dawson Committee. The Dawson Committee recommended changes to the Act aimed at improving the administration, timeliness and accountability of competition regulation.
To clarify and enhance its operation, minor amendments have been made to the Bill before its introduction. The broad policy of the Bill remains unchanged by these amendments which include the collective bargaining notification provisions.
“The new collective bargaining notification process is a win for small business making it easier for small businesses to negotiate fairer contract terms with larger businesses”, said the Minister for Small Business and Tourism.
Trade Practices Legislation Amendment (Small Business Protection) Bill2005
Last year the Treasurer announced the Government’s response to the Senate Report. The Government expects to be in a position to introduce the Trade Practices Legislation Amendment (Small Business Protection) Bill2005, to give effect to the Government’s response to the report, after approval of the draft legislation by the states and territories, which have a 35 day voting period as required by the Conduct Code Agreement.
The Bill will include changes, as announced on 23 June 2004 in respect of the prohibition on the misuse of market power under section46, to clarify the operation of the Trade Practices Act in the wake of recent High Court decisions.
It will also extend existing provisions dealing with unconscionable conduct in business transactions under section51AC. This will include extending the operation of the section to cover a greater range of transactions by increasing its threshold from $3million to $10million, making it more available to a large number of small business. “The changes seek to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of small business, without compromising competition objectives”, said the Minister for Small Business and Tourism.
The Bill will also contain provisions to implement the Prime Minister’s 6July2004 announcement that the Government will amend the Trade Practices Act to establish an additional ACCC Deputy Chairperson position. The states and territories will be consulted on the Government’s nominee for the position, MrJohn Martin, an existing ACCC Commissioner. MrMartin is a person with considerable knowledge about the challenges facing small business.
Trade Practices Amendment (National Access Regime) Bill2005
A Bill is also being prepared to implement the recommendations of the 2001Productivity Commission inquiry into the National Access Regime.
The Bill provides the Government’s broad policy and legislative approach to access regulation in PartIIIA. The Government has already consulted with state and territory governments in developing the final Government response to the Productivity Commission’s report.
Trade Practices Amendment (Cartel Conduct) Bill2005
On 2February2005, the Treasurer announced that the Government would take action to amend the Trade Practices Act to introduce criminal penalties for serious cartel conduct. Under the proposed changes, a new offence will prohibit agreements between competitors to fix prices, restrict output, divide markets or rig bids, where the agreement is made with the intention of dishonestly obtaining a gain from customers who fall victim to the cartel.
Breaches of the new offence will attract substantial penalties, up to five years imprisonment and a fine of $220,000 for individuals, and for corporations a fine that is the greater of $10million or threetimes the value of the benefit from the cartel, or where the value cannot be determined 10percent of annual turnover.
The Trade Practices Amendment (Cartel Conduct) Bill2005 is currently being prepared to give effect to this announcement. The Government is consulting the states and territories for a three month period commencing 2February2005 in relation to the proposals, in accordance with the Conduct Code Agreement.
Once a Bill has been drafted, approval of the draft legislation will be sought from the states and territories over a 35day voting period, as required by the Agreement. Provided the necessary approvals are met, the Government will move to introduce the Bill as soon as possible.
“The package of reforms shows this Government’s serious and ongoing commitment to competition reform”, said the Treasurer. “In its recent Economic Survey of Australia, 2004 the OECD has highlighted the contribution that vigorous competition law enforcement makes towards Australia’s strong economic performance.”
Horticulture code of conduct
In accordance with its 2004 election commitment, the Australian Government is developing a mandatory horticulture code of conduct that will be prescribed under the Trade Practices Act 1974. The horticulture code should help improve the day-to-day business relationships between fruit and vegetable growers and wholesalersby providing greater certainty and transparency for transactions.
Contact: David Alexander Treasurer’s Office 02 6277 7340
Kevin Lowe Minister for Small Business 02 6277 7450
& Tourism’s Office