Competition Policy from 1992 to 2014: Presentation by Professor Fred Hilmer

The Business Council of Australia supports the review of competition policy by the federal government.

Professor Fred Hilmer AO, widely known as the architect of National Competition Policy in Australia, addressed a forum hosted by the Business Council of Australia and lawyers Gilbert + Tobin on 13 February 2014.

The forum was part of a series of activities being undertaken by the BCA to explore how to make the most of the opportunity that the current ‘root-and-branch’ competition review represents.

The Hilmer inquiry and the resulting national competition policy was widely seen, both in Australia and internationally, as having made a major contribution to Australia’s subsequent economic success. The inquiry looked at how innovation and a dynamic economy could be supported by extending competition, and applying competition law, across the economy with a clear focus on making Australia more competitive.

As described in an opinion piece by Jennifer Westacott and Danny Gilbert, there are three key lessons from the Hilmer process that can usefully be applied to the current competition review. They are that: (1) a principles-based approach should be applied; (2) regulation across the economy should reflect the competitive landscape of today; and (3) the focus should be on getting the incentives right so as to promote the successful implementation of government reforms.

Professor Hilmer’s presentation to the BCA–Gilbert + Tobin forum on 13 February discussed this history, focusing on three themes:

  • the rightful definition of competition policy – what it is, and what it is not
  • the key issues today compared to the issues that were relevant in 1992
  • how the ‘politics’ of the review might play out.

If the current ‘root-and-branch’ review is to be successful, it needs to address:

  • specific barriers to using existing assets, to new products, plans or business models
  • more competitive delivery of public services
  • the interplay of local, state/territory and Commonwealth regulation and the resulting barriers to reform
  • how the performance of regulators might be improved
  • the cumulative impact of all of these factors on competitiveness.

The February 2013 forum, which was moderated by Tony Boyd of The Australian Financial Review, included a panel session with Jennifer Westacott, Alan Kirkland of Choice, Peter Strong of COSBOA, Stephen King of Monash University and Luke Woodward of Gilbert + Tobin.

The Business Council of Australia will be making representations and a formal submission to the government’s review, on behalf of its members.

On 27 March the BCA welcomed the release of the final terms of reference and details of the panel to undertake the government’s competition review.

Competition Policy from 1992 to 2014: Presentation by Professor Fred Hilmer AO

Submission to the Competition Policy Review (June 2014)