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Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Page: 8746

Competition Policy

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:06): My question is to the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann, representing the Treasurer. Can the minister detail why competition reform is essential for strong economic growth?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:06): All of us on this side of the chamber are focused on policies that strengthen growth and create more jobs, and of course competition reform is at the heart of our agenda to strengthen growth and create more and better jobs. The Treasurer has this afternoon released the government's response to the Harper review into competition policy. On coming into office the coalition government fulfilled an election commitment by commissioning the first root and branch review of Australia's competition laws in 20 years.

The Harper review was handed down earlier this year. It was a call on Australians to embrace competition and, with it, greater consumer choice, a more productive economy and the higher living standards that come with that. The government has embraced the Harper review recommendations by specifically supporting in whole or in part 44 of the 56 recommendations, and we remain open to the remaining 12 recommendations, depending on the outcome of further review and consultation with the states and territories and with other stakeholders.

To meet the challenges we face and to capitalise on the opportunities we find, we do need to develop a more competitive, a more productive, a more innovative and, indeed, a more agile economy. The competition reforms of the 1990s are credited with raising the level of Australia's GDP by 2½ per cent. They contributed to a productivity surge that drove strong growth in real household incomes, directly reduced the prices of essential goods and services and stimulated business innovation. This will be the next generation of competition reform across Australia which will help us to strengthen economic growth and create more and better jobs into the future. This is a very important part of our agenda.

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:08): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, why is it important to undertake micro-economic reform to strengthen the economy and to stimulate jobs growth?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:08): That is a very important question by Senator Bushby. Productivity growth is what will keep wages growing, create new and better jobs and help to improve our living standards moving forward. The Harper review makes it clear that competition is one of the surest ways to lift long-term productivity growth. Competition encourages businesses to pursue efficiencies, rewarding the innovative and dynamic businesses that provide the best services at the lowest cost. It also benefits households by giving them more choice and better value products and services. 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 Turnbull government's economic plan, where, by backing Australian businesses, we are encouraging them to innovate and to help drive growth in jobs in our economy. Of course, this government already has a very strong record when it comes to creating more jobs, having created more than 360,000 jobs. (Time expired)

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. What else is the government doing to strengthen the economy?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:10): The government's efforts to further reform our competition laws are of course part of a broader plan to deliver stronger growth and more jobs. They are part of the efforts of the government to create an environment in which business can grow and be more successful and drive stronger economic growth into the future. On this side of the parliament, we understand that, for Australia to be the most successful we can be, we need individual Australians and individual Australian businesses to be the most successful they can be. That is why we have cut more than $2 billion in red tape per annum out of the business costs that Australian businesses faced under the previous administration. That is why we got rid of bad taxes like the mining tax and the carbon tax. That is why we reduced company taxes for small business. That is why we are helping exporting businesses in Australia to be more successful in accessing key overseas markets like China, Korea and Japan, through significant free trade agreements, and of course we are pursuing further opportunities around the world. (Time expired)