Labor will stand up to the market power of multinationals and the top end of town, massively increase penalties for bad behaviour, fight inequality and clamp down on anti-consumer behaviour by big business by reforming competition laws.
Australia has a competition problem – there is not enough of it. Our industries are concentrated. Our markets show signs of weak competition and feature large power imbalances.
Recent analysis shows that more than half of Australia’s markets are concentrated – meaning that the four largest firms control a third of the market or more.
Increased concentration is often associated with reduced competition, resulting in higher prices and higher inequality, and lower productivity, innovation, investment, quality and consumer choice.
The Liberals don’t like competition. They prefer to defend their mates in the top end of town. Under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government, it fell to Labor to legislate fair competition reforms, including Small Business Access to Justice, which helps small businesses take on market dominant competitors in court without the risk of being bankrupted by the legal fees of their opponent.
- Raise the maximum dollar penalty for companies that break competition laws and rip off consumers from $10 million to $50 million per offence.
- Double the ACCC’s litigation budget to $49 million.
- Adopt the European Union’s penalty system for anti-competitive conduct, which is based on 30 per cent of the annual sales of the relevant product or service, multiplied by the number of years the infringement took place, capped at 10 per cent of annual turnover.
- Empower consumer and small business advocacy groups to make ‘supercomplaints’ about rip-offs to the ACCC. Supercomplaints will require an investigation and public response from the watchdog with a limited response time.
- Mergers that have occurred in concentrated markets, or have previously raised regulator concerns or enforceable undertakings, will require a review five and ten years after the merger to evaluate the competition and consumer outcomes of the merger, and the broader public interest (including whether mergers reduced wages, cut jobs, lowered product quality, limited access to services, stifled innovation, damaged suppliers, or hindered the ability of small businesses and entrepreneurs to compete).
- Give a truly independent market studies function to the ACCC to explore public interest issues such as pricing discrepancies and increased market concentration.
- Amend the Competition and Consumer Act to allow courts to apply higher penalties for conduct that targets or disproportionately impacts disadvantaged Australians.
- Require the ACCC to prioritise investigations of conduct that targets or disproportionately impacts disadvantaged Australians.
- Investigate the impact of increased market concentration on income inequality in Australia and produce policy recommendations on how the negative effects of market concentration can be mitigated.
- Encourage states and territories to include competition principles in planning and zoning legislation, with a specific focus on shortfalls of appropriately zoned land for key services in disadvantaged communities.