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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3086


Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield) (12:59): I rise to speak further about the merits or otherwise of the 64 detailed amendments which have been provided to the House at very short notice and which appear to have the effect of substantially expanding the scope of operations of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and which make it clear that this is really about industrial matters and that all pretence at dealing with safety has been thrown out of the window.

One of the matters which raises very grave concerns from the point of view of public policy is the impact of these arrangements on competition. I am referring particularly to clause 37A of the amendments and of the new bill if the amendments take effect. Clause 37A is headed 'Authorisation of conduct for the purposes of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010'. Let us remind ourselves what the Competition and Consumer Act does. The Competition and Consumer Act, previously known and perhaps still better known as the Trade Practices Act, is intended to ensure that, in the conduct of business in Australia, the interests of consumers are maximised by maximising the force of competition. The whole idea is that you have companies and organisations and individuals in business competing with each other to the most vigorous extent possible with a view to delivering to customers, to end users and to ordinary Australians the lowest prices—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. DGH Adams ): Order!

Mr FLETCHER: and the best quality of service. Mr Deputy Speaker, this is central to the question of the merits of proposed section 37A, 'Authorisation of conduct for the purposes of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010'. As is revealed by the inclusion of this provision in the bill, there is a fundamental tension between allowing the forces of competition to flourish in the interests of customers and end users and the collectivist mentality which underpins this bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member will return to the matters before the House.

Mr FLETCHER: Mr Deputy Speaker, I am discussing quite specifically clause 37A, 'Authorisation of conduct'—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The matters before the House are 64 amendments. The honourable member will address the amendments before the House.

Mr FLETCHER: Mr Deputy Speaker, clause 37A is amendment (40), and that is specifically and precisely what I am addressing in these remarks. The question—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member will take directions from the chair. The honourable member will continue his comments by addressing the amendments before the House.

Mr FLETCHER: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am addressing amendment (40), which is headed: 'Clause 37A Authorisation of conduct for the purposes of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010'. The question I am suggesting the House ought consider very carefully as it considers whether or not it is a good idea to pass this amendment is whether it is a good idea to grant such an authorisation. Let us be very clear about this. The effect of such an authorisation is that conduct which would otherwise be illegal under the Competition and Consumer Act as a breach of provisions dealing with, for example, restraint of trade or anti-competitive agreements between competitors is specifically authorised by this provision. The question that that requires the House to consider is whether the detriment to competition, which is clearly admitted by the fact that the government has thought it necessary to include this amendment in the bill, is justified by the claimed benefit, which we are told has something to do with safety but which, upon analysis, is in fact a set of measures designed to extend the reach of the industrial regulatory apparatus which this government has been so enthusiastically expanding, measures which are going to make it harder for ordinary business people to get on and do their job.