Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public
Press release, 15 February1998
NCC UNDER CLOSE SCRUTINY AGAIN BY PARLIAMENTARY COMMTTEE
The activities of the National Competition Council (NCC) will be examined
again on Wednesday 25 February by the Financial Institutions Committee
at a public hearing in Melbourne. The NCC is one of the key new competition
agencies. It's role in competition policy is crucial - it advises the
Commonwealth, States and Territories in implementing the competition reforms,
as well as assessing their progress.
Committee Chairman, David Hawker MP, said 'Since the NCC's inception
there has been ongoing basic concerns about its effectiveness. Questions
continue to be asked about the dual role of the NCC as advisor and assessor;
the way competition policy is being implemented; and the impact of competition
policy, particularly in regional areas.'
While under its new President, Mr Graham Samuel, the NCC has achieved
a higher profile and adopted a more open and collaborative approach to
much of its work, the basic questions remain.
Mr Hawker said 'The Council's assessment role is of particular concern.
In July last year all jurisdictions received full payments from the Commonwealth
for their progress to date in implementing the reforms, despite gaps in
performance in some areas. Some $406 million in 1997-98 are involved.
This money was paid on the basis of the assessment recommendations made
by the NCC. It is difficult to reconcile the confidence shown by the NCC
in its assessment report and the somewhat pessimistic picture of reform
now emerging from the NCC's most recent annual report.'
'In its annual report the NCC has pointed to slippage in almost all
areas of competition reform and stresses the need to adjust the broader
policy mix in some areas so that the potential benefits of competition
reform can be fully realised and used well.'
'Public concerns remain rife about the NCP legislative review program.
Despite the Committee's support for national reviews, the options and
tone emerging from the NCC's recent work on the Australia Post review,
does not instil confidence in regional Australia.'
Mr Hawker said 'Some of the matters that the Committee would address
at the hearing include:
- the extent to which a shared understanding of 'public interest' and
the 'public interest test' is
- developing amongst jurisdictions and in the wider community;
- the Council's 'intermediate option' which has allowed jurisdictions
to receive their first tranche competition payments while there are
deficiencies in their performance;
- delays to date by the Commonwealth in reporting on its performance
to the NCC;
- the ommisions and slippage in the legislative review programs and
the manner in which those reviews are being undertaken;
- the slow pace of reform by local government and in the big infrastructure
- the slow rate of 'on the ground reform' as opposed to providing generic
'Given the NCC's critical role in competition policy, its actions must
be transparent and accountable. With the NCC's unique position of reporting
to the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments as a group, its appearance
before this Parliamentary Committee provides a rare opportunity for detailed
public scrutiny' concluded Mr Hawker.
Ends // 15 February 1998 // Email: EFPA.Reps@aph.gov.au
David Hawker MP (Chairman) (03) 5572 1100 (Electorate)
Bev Forbes (Inquiry Secretary) (02) 6277 4587
Public Hearing - Wednesday 25 February 1998
Meeting Room, Victorian Committee Offices
35 Spring Street
10.00am - 12.00nn National Competition Council
Mr Graham Samuel, President
Mr Ed Willett, Executive Director
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