On 15 October 2001, the Prime Minister announced that there would be an independent review of the competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and their administration.
The Treasurer announced the terms of reference for the review and the membership of the review Committee on 9 May 2002.
The Committee reported to the Government by the end of January 2003.
The Committee's Report was released in April 2003.
A Commonwealth Government Response has been released.
The competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (the Act) have helped to shape economic activity in Australia since 1974. Competitive markets make an important contribution to increasing efficiency and productivity in the economy, thereby improving the welfare of Australians. This has been evident in the contribution that more competitive markets have made to the strong performance of the Australian economy over the past decade.
The recent gains have been achieved following structural reform of the economy and have been accompanied by changes to the regulatory framework. These have included the extension of the competition provisions to apply to all business activity in Australia. Whilst the changing environment of Australian business has provided substantial opportunities for investment, it has also presented some challenges. Corporations must respond to developments in market conditions that may occur quickly and may be influenced by international, as well as domestic, competition. For some businesses, including those in industries that have experienced significant structural change, the new environment involves dealing in less regulated markets or with large businesses that have greater market power.
In accordance with its terms of reference, the Committee has reviewed the competition and authorisation provisions of the Act to establish whether they meet the needs of business in the current environment or whether improvements might be made to ensure that they are effective. The Committee has also had regard to the way in which the competition provisions and related aspects of the Act have been administered.
The Committee has drawn on a broad range of views expressed in submissions made to it, in discussions overseas and in consultations with a wide range of interested parties. Contributions were made by business, both big and small, and other parties, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), governments, consumer representatives, the professions and individuals.
Paragraph 1(c) of the terms of reference required the Committee to consider whether the competition provisions promote competitive trading which benefits consumers in terms of service and price. The Committee's conclusions and recommendations are set out at the end of each chapter of the report. Overall, the Committee considers that the competition provisions have served Australians well. The Act has sustained a competitive environment which has benefited consumers in terms of service and price. In doing so, it has achieved an appropriate balance between the prohibition of anti-competitive conduct and the encouragement of competition. The regime established by the Act compares favourably with competition regimes in other countries, allowing for the differences in the various legal systems. At the same time, the Committee has recommended changes to the competition and authorisation provisions by way of improvement and some changes to administrative arrangements to meet concerns expressed to the Committee.