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Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Page: 8951

Competition Policy

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:23): My question is to the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann, representing the Treasurer. What plans does the government have to work with the states and territories and other key stakeholders to implement competition reforms?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:24): I thank Senator Seselja for this question and for his genuine interest in policies that strengthen growth so we can see more and better jobs created across the Australian economy. The Harper review was really a call to arms for all Australians and all levels of government in Australia to embrace competition and to embrace policies to improve competition across Australia as a key component of our overall strategy to strengthen growth and create more and better jobs.

With competition, of course, comes greater consumer choice, a more productive economy and higher living standards, which will help drive growth in jobs in our economy. As I mentioned to the Senate yesterday, the government is embracing the Harper review by supporting, in whole or in part, 44 of the 56 recommendations, while we remain open to the remaining 12 recommendations and of course are committed to do some further work in relation to those matters, talking with the states and territories and other stakeholders. The Hilmer review in 1993 led to a decade of pro-competitive reforms through the National Competition Policy, which increased Australia's GDP by 2.5 per cent, and the Harper review is an opportunity to build on this legacy.

The government is already engaging with the states and territories to develop a national framework to advance an ambitious competition reform agenda. Many areas of reform identified in the Harper review are in areas of state and territory responsibility, such as planning and zoning and retail trading hours, or in areas of shared responsibility with the Commonwealth, such as human services. The government is willing to consider payments to the states and territories for reforms that deliver improved productivity and boost economic growth, as such payments were integral to the success of the National Competition Policy 20 years ago. (Time expired)

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:26): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Could the minister further expand on how further competition reform will strengthen Australia's economy?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:26): Competition encourages business to pursue efficiencies, rewarding the innovative and dynamic businesses that provide the best services at the lowest cost—those businesses that are the most agile, I guess is how I could best put it. If businesses can become more efficient and if they can lower their operating costs as a result, they are then free to invest further in Australia's economy and be even more successful and employ more Australians.

Reforming competition is one of the best options we have to boost growth and productivity in the years ahead, and this is why it is at the heart of the government's economic plan. Ultimately it is through increased choice, competition and gains in productivity that we will reinvigorate real wage growth for working Australians and grow our economy, and the Treasurer will be discussing these matters with his state and territory counterparts next month. The government is optimistic that we can find a way forward to increase competition in our economy, to the benefit of all Australians.

Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (14:27): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, could you outline how competition reform and other economic reforms will strengthen jobs growth in Australia?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:27): That is a very good question by Senator Seselja, if I might say so. Increasing choice and delivering better services for consumers is central to this government's plan for driving growth in jobs in our economy, and it is also central to our response to the Harper review. The Harper review encourages governments at all levels to lead a new phase of change, to deliver better services and greater choices for Australians. In turn, this will help drive growth in jobs in our economy and support the higher living standards that result from these efforts. When businesses become more competitive and efficient, they invest in Australia, and investment creates jobs and growth, which are of course central to the future strength and success of the Australian economy. While this government is getting on with the job of pursuing and implementing serious reform, what do we get from Labor in their big year of new ideas? Three new tax increases. That is all Bill Shorten has got to show for this year of big ideas. (Time expired)