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Tuesday, 10 September 1996
Page: 3918

(Question No. 472)

Mr Latham asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 25 June 1996:

In Australia's Closer Economic Relations with New Zealand, what is the Government's position and intentions with respect to (a) common competition policies and (b) macroeconomic and currency convergence.

Mr Costello —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(a) The Australia and New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA), which came into force in 1983, is the primary instrument governing the conduct of trade between Australia and New Zealand in goods and services. The purpose of ANZCERTA is to develop closer economic relations between Australia and New Zealand through the mutually beneficial expansion of free trade under conditions of fair competition, via a gradual and progressive elimination of barriers to trade, including through the harmonisation of business laws.

When New Zealand enacted the Commerce Act 1986 (the CA) in 1986 the competition provisions of that statute were largely based on the competition provisions in the Australian Trade Practices Act 1974 (the TPA). Subsequently, each country has undertaken periodic reviews leading to minor modifications in their competition laws. Notwithstanding the various modifications to the statutes, substantial harmonisation remains and is intended to continue. Some changes in the statutes have been complementary; for example, on 1 July 1990, under the auspices of ANZCERTA, the availability of anti-dumping actions on goods originated in each other's markets was removed and the misuse of market power provisions were expanded to take in trans-Tasman markets.

Consideration will be given in the future to extending the competitive conduct provisions of the TPA and the CA to trans-Tasman markets, but these matters are not considered pressing at this stage.

Although New Zealand and Australian competition laws are similar, Australia's recent implementation of reforms in response to the Hilmer Report (released in August 1993) has greatly enhanced Australia's national competition policy; for example, Australian law now includes provision for third party access to significant infrastructure facilities, such as electricity grids. Furthermore, our national competition policy contains processes for future reform, including the review of anti-competitive legislation to ensure that such legislation produces net public benefits and the implementation of competitive neutrality principles for government businesses. There is no formal mechanism to harmonise these areas of competition policy between Australia and New Zealand. However, the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement which provides for mutual recognition of various Australian and New Zealand regulations and standards relating to the sale of goods and the registration of occupations is consistent with the competition policy objective of removing regulatory restrictions on competition.

(b) There is no provision under ANZCERTA for macroeconomic and currency convergence between Australia and New Zealand.