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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 5 May 2016) . . Page.. 1564 ..

The bill includes amendments that would make substantial revisions to the regime for review of price directions. These amendments would shift the review mechanism away from the broad basis upon which applications can currently be lodged to one in which applications for review can only be made on the basis of demonstrated grounds for review.

Complementary to this revised review regime, the bill also includes provisions that would create a preliminary assessment stage within a review process in which an industry panel would be required to make an initial decision about the merits of the case for review, on the basis of the evidence provided within the application.

If, and I stress “if”, at this early stage of the review process, the industry panel is not satisfied that the applicant has provided sufficient evidence to support a preliminary conclusion that there are serious matters to be heard, and that there is at least one valid ground for review, then the industry panel would be required to dismiss the application for review.

These changes to the review provisions of the ICRC act will help improve the overall proportionality of the review mechanism for price directions handed down by the commission. This will ensure that an appropriate balance is achieved between ensuring applications are only advanced where they relate to serious matters that affect a price review, while allowing comprehensive review of a price direction, should such an approach be deemed necessary by an industry panel.

Another important change to the ICRC act proposed by this bill is the introduction of an overarching objective clause for the commission in relation to pricing regulation. In his review, Mr Grant identified that such a clause would be beneficial to the overall operation of the ICRC act and that it should establish the promotion of economic efficiency as the primary objective of the pricing regulatory framework.

The proposed objective clause has been drafted to capture Mr Grant’s intent and make clear that the promotion of economic efficiency represents the key objective of the commission when undertaking price regulation activities under the ICRC act. The inclusion of this objective clause for pricing regulation will further guide the commission, in particular as it seeks to successfully balance and prioritise the broad range of matters that it must take into account when undertaking a pricing investigation.

The bill also contains a range of other amendments that would implement incremental improvements to the ICRC act. These amendments are also associated with the pricing investigation process. For example, Madam Speaker, the bill includes provisions that would clarify the process for determining the regulatory period for which a price direction is to apply and provisions that would increase clarity around the steps the commission must undertake as part of its pricing investigation process. While individually these amendments represent only relatively minor changes to the ICRC act, in combination they will help improve the operation of the regulatory framework for pricing investigations.

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