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Competition review proposes body shake-up 

The Australian Government Competition Policy Review released today has proposed reforms to Australia’s competition institutions, suggesting the establishment of the Australian Council for Competition Policy (ACCP).

Proposed as a new national competition institution, the ACCP would take on the information-gathering responsibilities currently being performed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

“We intend this new body to reinvigorate the competition policy reform agenda, so it will have a significant advocacy role,” says review panel member and former head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Anderson.

“The second thing we intend to do with it is give it a role that allows the ACCC to perform its most basic task, that is to be the regulator and enforcer, without having to cross the line into policy advocacy.”

The review has also proposed the creation of the Access and Pricing Regulator, which would see the roles of the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), the ACCC, and the National Competition Council (NCC) combined under one body.

“The National Competition Council has some limited responsibilities relating to access regulation, so this new regulator would take those responsibilities and also the responsibilities of the current Australian Energy Regulator,” says Anderson.

“In the medium to longer term, once this body is established and the states have confidence in it, they may well see the merit in dissolving their own pricing regulators inside.”

It’s possible that a shake-up to the ACCC’s staff structure would occur under the new policy.

“Necessarily, there would be some changes. We haven’t gone into the details,” says Anderson. “The ACCC is a very strong and robust institution and we believe it is a very credible regulator and enforcer, but it has some of these extra roles.”

The policy calls for some big changes to the current competition bodies, and Anderson boils the proposal down to two major factors:

“One is to take it away from this broad public advocacy role, about where competition policy should start and finish, and secondly, on access and pricing, we believe there should be a second access and pricing regulator. I don’t think it would be right to say we are neutering the ACCC.”