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Costello's ego leaves ACCC in limbo.

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Media Release



28 May 2003


This is a sad day for the administration of competition policy in Australia. Peter Costello’s ego stands in the way of the appointment of a permanent head to one of our most important economic agencies.

Mr Costello has appointed Graeme Samuel as acting chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission using a part of the law intended for temporary appointments. He has done this because he was unable to achieve a consensus on Mr Samuel’s appointment using the proper channels explicitly designed for that purpose.

Under the Trade Practices Act, Mr Costello is required to win the support of a majority of the eight states and territories for the appointment of an ACCC chairman. There are good reasons for this requirement, which was agreed to by the states in return for allowing the ACCC to enforce state competition laws.

Mr Costello also complains there is no substantial support for any other candidate. The simple fact is he hasn’t even tried. Mr Costello has not launched the process for seeking another candidate.

He knows perfectly well - because both the big business and small business community have told him - there is an alternative candidate with broad acceptance who would be likely to win necessary support of the states and territories. But he would rather impose his own candidate in defiance of the proper procedures.

Mr Costello continues to hold the important position of deputy chair of the ACCC hostage to the hope he will eventually find a way to appoint Mr Samuel as chairman on a permanent basis. Mr Costello should get on with the job he is paid for, putting forward candidates for both chair and deputy chair who can win widespread support, so that the ACCC can discharge its important job of protecting the interests of large and small business and of consumers.

Today’s provocative decision leaves one of Australia’s most important economic institutions with a temporary leader without the clear support of the states and territories. As the acting chairman can only be appointed for a year, the ACCC’s long-term leadership remains in limbo.

Further information: Robert Garran (02) 6277 4803, 0419 692 504

TELEPHONE: (02) 6277 4803 ã FACSIMILE: (02) 6277 8496