Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 800 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
The intention of competition policy is to provide cheaper high-quality goods through open competition. The theory is good but lousy in practice when we can see the giants of food retailing taking advantage of the freeing up of a market and destroying competition through the elimination of small players, and then setting whatever pricing structure they like. This is not competition; this is monopoly by stealth - and, in the case of action of late by Woolworths and National Foods, not too much stealth has been used. Mr Speaker, I speak in support of the Bill and urge the Government to take the giant head-on, to represent the smaller local industry players and to ensure that Woolworths and National Foods do not kill off our local industry.
MR OSBORNE (10.39): I too rise to support this Bill. I understand that this Bill clarifies the ACT's regulatory position and ensures that the Territory is not in breach of the conduct rules in the Trade Practices Act and therefore exposed to litigation. But in supporting this Bill I want to flag some serious concerns I have about the way in which the Government has proceeded with the inquiry into the milk industry and its whole approach to implementing competition policy.
Mr Speaker, I would like to read some sections of the House of Representatives report "Cultivating Competition". This is a report of the Standing Committee on Financial Institutions and Public Administration on several aspects of the implementation of competition policy. The report notes at the outset that there is considerable agreement that economic benefits will flow to Australia through the competition policy reforms, but it goes on to say that there is considerable disagreement about the magnitude of those benefits. It also says:
In many instances it is difficult to differentiate the benefits of competition policy from those of other reforms.
But, tellingly, Mr Speaker, the report outlines some of the impacts that have not been assessed. It says:
There has been no major analysis of the broader socio-economic costs of the reforms particularly the impact on unemployment, changed working conditions, social welfare, equity, social dislocation, environmental impacts ...
You have to be joking! How can a policy like this be allowed to proceed without some attempt to measure the social impact? What kind of half-arsed policy is this? Mr Speaker, despite what this Government would have us believe, the report says that the main consultation and discussion of the reforms took place within the Council of Australian Governments. It says:
So far there has been little discussion in the community on competition reforms.
How does that sit with what we have been told by this Government? I have said in this place a number of times that most of the community was not involved in the debate about these reforms, and that has been ridiculed by the Government.