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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9271

Mr LAUNDY (Reid) (11:32): I would like to commend my good friend the member for Lindsay for putting this motion forward. I always like following those opposite. I will pick up on the member for Fraser's love of the family. If you look at the small business sector over the last six years—and I notice the member for Fraser went a long way further past that—employment numbers decreased by 500,000, taking it from 55 per cent of the employment in this country to 43 per cent. I have always thought that the best form of help you can give a family is to ensure that the people in it could get a job. But, then again, what would I know? I have only done it. I do not teach it. My father has always said, 'Those who can do it do it, and those who cannot teach.' I have been out there doing it and then I found my way here.

I would also like to congratulate the Minister for Small Business, Minister Billson, for his achievement in establishing this vital review. As the motion notes, it has been over 20 years since the last major review of this area has been undertaken. This review is an important part of the government's Economic Action Strategy and a key element of the government's plan to increase productivity and reduce the regulatory burden on Australian business, big and small. Chaired by Professor Ian Harper, one of Australia's best known economists, and with an eminent panel of business leaders and competition policy experts, the Harper review promises to be a comprehensive look at the competitive environment. The review will be looking at the broader area of competition law and will include related issues such as regulatory impediments, government involvement in markets and dealings between small and big business. The review will also focus on concerns in concentrated markets within the Australian economy and Australia's long-term competitiveness, among other areas.

As has been stated in various policy debates recently, Australia's economy is at a pivotal point where decisions and actions must be taken to ensure continued economic growth and a prosperous future for all. This means we need to look at ways to achieve long-term competitiveness, promote investment, increase productivity and achieve higher real wage growth for all Australians. The original competition policy introduced in the 1990s increased GDP by 2½ per cent and resulted in lower prices and improved services in numerous sectors of the economy. This review we are undertaking will help to lay the foundations for a more productive and competitive 21st century economy and a more prosperous Australia.

Competitive domestic markets will also help facilitate the international competitiveness of Australian exporters accessing the global marketplace. Two weeks ago I had the Treasurer in my electorate, at a company called Rode Microphones. They are taking on the world and exporting 97 per cent of what they produce in a factory in Silverwater. These businesses should be encouraged to take risks—to take on debt, employ people and tackle the world head on—and we as government should work out the best way to get out of their way and allow them to do it. Accordingly, the review has been given a broad mandate to consider competition policy, regulation, and restrictions and their impacts on the Australian economy at all levels of government. Consideration of these matters will feed into and support the government's deregulation agenda. It is good that the member for Lindsay starts to raise these discussions we are having today, because, for the last 105 or 106 days, we have focused on the expense side of our national profit-and-loss statement, the budget. We need to move on to the revenue side. I applaud the member for Lindsay for raising this motion because the key area that this review will cover can deliver relatively substantial benefits to productivity by examining and removing barriers to competition.

There are sectors of the economy in which competition can be improved despite the substantial progress of national competition policy reform to date. Examples can be found in the retail sector, professional services, passenger and commercial transport and other markets. Due to the relatively small size of Australian markets and our geographic isolation, Australian markets have been prone to concentration and oligopolistic—that is hard to say!—market features. Small businesses benefit from competition and the exposure to incentives to innovate and reduce costs; however, they can be in a poorer position than many to risk this, and can be adversely affected by an inequality of bargaining power in dealing with larger businesses. Small business groups have frequently voiced concerns in my electorate about the impact of concentrated markets, suggesting they are negatively impacted by an abuse of power by big business that is not adequately captured by competition laws. I applaud the member for Lindsay; I rise in support of this and I applaud the Minister for Small Business.