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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1484 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

I think everybody has a copy. As with previous speakers, I would really like the framework and the content of this to be examined quite thoroughly. This is a very important issue. The structure, and competition policy itself, has been an issue that has been applied to very many of the decisions taken in this place. We have heard many things done by government rationalised, justified or explained under the banner of competition policy. It therefore follows that whatever we do is going to impinge upon many of the decisions that will be taken in the future in this place. If the Government is in a hurry to put this through, I suggest to them that, given that there is a clear desire on the part of many of the members of this place for it to be referred, we cut out one stage of that; that we accelerate the process by cutting out the process of noting and we go straight to referral.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (4.09): I similarly endorse the need for this matter to be referred. I see no reason to not do it today rather than wait a week. I think there are some quite interesting ideas in the paper. I am not suggesting, by my desire to have it referred to the Chief Minister's Committee, that I necessarily think it is a matter that is not worthy of consideration. I think it is quite an interesting proposal. Somebody obviously has done some significant lateral thinking on the issue of competition policy. There are aspects of it, too, that I would question. I am a little concerned that it perhaps narrows the focus of the attention that would be given to competition policy issues by reducing it to a single commissioner rather than the arrangement we currently have, which I think is quite a good model, to the extent that it allows a wide range of community input. So, there are significant issues that would need to be addressed.

Competition policy is important. We have a number of issues raging at the moment. I think that there is no reason why the Competition Policy Forum cannot continue to work now, if it were only better resourced and treated a little bit more seriously. There are serious matters that the forum could and should consider, and I hope it is considering them now. I note that the Government - - -

Ms Carnell: You told us to come forward with a new model.

MR STANHOPE: We did. We supported a motion. I was quite happy to see the Competition Policy Forum continue. I think the forum has tremendous potential. It is just that it has not been appropriately resourced or appropriately used or valued. I would like to see it continue. I can see no reason why, in the interim, it cannot be more appropriately resourced and used as originally intended.

Having regard to the problems that have been experienced with the Competition Policy Forum and the Government's reluctance to use it, all we are suggesting is that we make sure we get it right next time; that it is a model that everybody is comfortable to work with. We want a forum that has the capacity to facilitate the debate on competition issues in a way that meets the needs of the community in terms of the debate that we must have on privatisation and competition. There is widespread concern within the community about the way competition policy is being implemented. In the minds of a lot of people it is being abused. We must get the model right.

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