Published on Sep 21, 2015

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Australia’s 29th Prime Minister was sworn in last week amid a flurry of speculation about if and how a Malcolm Turnbull-led Liberal government will differ from Tony Abbott’s.

While status quo on marriage equality and climate policy remained, the renegotiated coalition agreement shook things up on some fronts.

One of the central elements of the new agreement was the revival of competition policy reform and the previously discarded effects test, news not received as warmly by big business as Turnbull’s appointment to the leadership role.

The effects test is central to competition policy reforms designed to curb misuse of market power and improve competition.

Small business advocate and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Kate Carnell said negative claims about competition reform were unfounded.  In a statement congratulating Mr Turnbull on his appointment as PM, Carnell reiterated her support for reform.

“The government has recognised the vital role that small businesses play in creating new job opportunities and growing the economy. This year’s budget was welcomed by small businesses for the opportunity it provided to invest, grow and employ. We hope small business continues to be a focus of the government,” she said.

“We urge Prime Minister Turnbull to put in place policies to support small business, including improving section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act to introduce an effects test.”

Big business stakeholders, including the Business Council of Australia (BCA), had previously shunned the proposed changes to section 46 as outlined in the federal government’s Competition Policy Review Panel’s Harper Report.

The BCA claimed it would create an environment of uncertainty for business and would “deter legitimate innovative pricing, product development or business expansion that would be good for consumers.”

A clearer picture of Prime Minister Turnbull’s focus and priorities will emerge after the new cabinet settles.  Ousted Minister for Small Business, Federal Member for Dunkley Bruce Billson was a key supporter of competition reform, particularly the effects test.

Newly minted Minister for Small Business Kelly O’Dwyer has yet to state her position on the proposed reforms.

For more information about the effects test, visit the Competition Policy Review website.