Published on Jan 4, 2016

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Small businesses will benefit from a major overhaul of Australia’s competition laws, the first in more than two decades.

In its official response to the Harper Competition Policy Review, the Federal Government supported wholly or in part 44 of the 56 recommendations and indicated it was open to the remaining 12 recommendations.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said the review was a far-reaching analysis of competition policy which demonstrated reform would be critical to Australia’s long-term productivity growth.

“Effective competition encourages businesses to pursue efficiencies, rewarding the most innovative and dynamic that provide the best services at the lowest cost,” Mr Morrison said.

“It also benefits households by giving them more and better products and services to choose from at lower prices.

I am confident that this package of reforms will deliver stronger economic performance for Australia in the long term by promoting more dynamic, competitive and well‐functioning markets for the benefit of all Australians.”

Key recommendations for small business include:

Retail trading hours. The Government agreed restrictions on retail trading hours should be removed. Individual jurisdictions should retain the right to impose specific restrictions on Christmas Day, Good Friday and ANZAC Day morning, and also for alcohol retail or gambling services. Payments may be made to states and territories which demonstrate economic growth as a result of regulation reforms.

Small business access to remedies. The Government supported the recommendation that the ACCC actively connect small businesses to alternative dispute resolutions schemes and asked the ACCC to consider introducing changes to improve transparency and clarity for small businesses on why it is unable to pursue certain complaints through public enforcement.

Collective bargaining. The Government will develop draft legislation to support the recommendation for greater flexibility into the notification process for collective bargaining by small business. It supports the recommendation that the ACCC take steps to enhance awareness of the exemption process for collective bargaining and how it might be used to improve the bargaining position of small businesses in dealings with large businesses.

ACCC governance. The Government rejected the recommendation for part-time ACCC Commissions, stating a preference for the current full-time appointments. It supports the appointment of a specific small business commissioner.

Regulation review. The Government said all Australian governments, including local, should review regulations in their jurisdictions to ensure all Acts, ordinances and regulations are subject to a public interest test and do not restrict competition. Payments may be made to states and territories which demonstrate economic growth as a result of regulation reforms.

For more information, read the full Australian Government Response to the Competition Policy Review.

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