House of Representatives Committees

Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration

Review of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission annual report 1996-97

Press release, 20 November 1997

ACCC AGAIN UNDER CLOSE SCRUTINY BY PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE

The activities of Australia's major competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, will be examined again this week by the House of Representatives Financial Institutions and Public Administration Committee at a public hearing in Canberra on Thursday 20 November 1997.

According to the Committee Chairman, Mr David Hawker MP, "there is increasing business and community concern about the way in which the ACCC is undertaking its role, the legislative basis for its actions, and whether the Commission is really achieving the objectives it was designed to achieve."

"Almost no day goes by without some concern being raised in the media about the decisions or operations of the ACCC."

"While big business generally supports the concept of the Trade Practices Act and the national competition policy agenda, they continue to be critical of the manner in which the ACCC conducts itself in relation to mergers and acquisitions. Santos Ltd has set out its concerns in a submission to the Committee. That document echos the concerns of many other businesses and commentators in the field."

"Issues raised relate to the information and research basis of the ACCC's work, the consistency of the ACCC's decisions, the openness of the ACCC regarding its failures as well as its successes, and the impact of the ACCC's decisions on the commercial operations of companies." The Committee shares many of those concerns and we will also be seeking information on the Foxtel and Australis Media case. The Commission may have good reasons for its decisions and the Committee will be looking forward to hearing them if that is the case."

"As well the Committee will address important issues it raised with the ACCC at the last hearing in April and which the Commission agreed to follow-up. These matters include: greater transparency in the s 87B undertakings and other processes, the expected benefits of competition reforms in rural Australia and improvements in petrol pricing. The Commission's progress in implementing the Wallis reforms will also be canvassed."

"Given the Commission's significant powers which directly impact on the commercial operations of business in almost every market, and its role in consumer protection matters, the ACCC must be transparent and accountable, and be seen to be transparent and accountable, for all its decisions."

"One very public way in which that transparency is being achieved is through the Commission's regular appearance before our Committee. We are looking forward to a very frank and constructive exchange with Prof Fels" Mr Hawker concluded.

Ends // 18 November 1997
Further information:
David Hawker MP (Chairman) (02) 6277 4100
Bev Forbes (Inquiry Secretary) (02) 6277 4587

Public Hearing Program

Thursday 20 November 1997, 10.30am - 1.00pm

House of Representatives Committee Room 2R2
Parliament House
CANBERRA

10.30am Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Professor Alan Fels, Chairman
Ms Rhonda Smith, Commissioner
Mr Hank Spier, General Manager

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