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Tuesday, 7 June 1994
Page: 1418


Senator COULTER (6.17 p.m.) —I move:

Clause 80, page 38, paragraph (6)(b), line 37, omit the paragraph, substitute the following paragraph:

"(b)  the public benefit including the benefit in having competitive markets;".

This first amendment amends clause 80, which begins on page 37. It comes under division 4 of the bill, which deals with arbitration of access disputes. Clause 80 talks about the TPC arbitrating an access dispute, saying that:

. . . it must make a written determination about the matters to which the arbitration relates.

That is subsection (1), and various other subsections set out the various conditions. We come to subsection (6), which says:

  In making a determination under subsection (1), the TPC must have regard to the following matters . . .

Paragraph (b) states:

. . . the benefit to the public in having competitive markets;

The objection we have to that wording is that it is simply constraining the benefit to the public within the ideological notion of a competitive market. The implicit assumption lying behind that is that there is no benefit to the public whatsoever other than a benefit which would come through having competitive markets. We are reminded of that absolutely atrocious Hilmer report, which again prejudges in ideological terms what sort of society we should live in—one in which we are cutting each other's throats in a competitive way—and says that that should be the end goal of our society.

  The Australian Democrats believe that a much wider definition of public benefit is required. I am pleased that, in moving this amendment to change the words `the benefit to the public in having competitive markets', the government has accepted the amendment `the public benefit including the benefit in having competitive markets'. Clearly, that will allow the Trade Practices Commission to take in a wider range of considerations, as it should. As I say, I am very pleased to note that the government will be accepting this amendment.