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ACCC Chair reads about divestment powers in the newspaper



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CHRIS BOWEN MP SHADOW TREASURER SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS MEMBER FOR MCMAHON

THE HON MARK BUTLER MP SHADOW MINISTER CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY MEMBER FOR PORT ADELAIDE

ACCC CHAIR READS ABOUT DIVESTMENT POWERS IN THE NEWSPAPER

Re-appointing Rod Sims for a five year term shows confidence in him from the Government.

So why then wasn’t the ACCC Chair who had previously considered divestment powers for the energy sector and rejected it, consulted by the former Treasurer Scott Morrison before the Liberal Party floated its latest thought bubble on it?

When asked about when he found out about it in Senate Estimates this morning, Mr Sims said:

“I think I can confidently say Senator I found out about it when everybody else did, when I read about it in the newspaper.”

The head of the nation’s competition watchdog was not consulted ahead of the announcement of the most extreme and heavy handed set of competition powers there is.

Mr Sims confirmed the view formed in the recent ACCC electricity prices report that considered and rejected divestiture powers:

“I guess divestiture is such an extreme step that we felt that judgement would be very hard to reach….but that was the judgement we reached Senator and our view hasn’t changed.”

The Liberal Party continues to make up energy policy as it goes, moving further and further away from policy that supports the renewable investment that will bring down prices and pollution and actually has an evidence base and is recommended by experts.

PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT

SENATE ECONOMIC ESTIMATES - ACCC CHAIR SIMS - DIVESTMENT POWERS

SENATOR CHRIS KETTER: Did you provide a recommendation to the government for divestiture powers in the energy sector?

ACCC CHAIR ROD SIMS: No, that wasn’t one of our recommendations Senator….We did take a different approach.

KETTER: When was the first of the government‘s intention to pursue this policy. Can you just tell us when did you first find out about this?

I think I can confidently say Senator I found out about it when everybody else did, when I read about it in the newspaper but I have no idea when that was. That’s when I found out about it.

KETTER: Did you have any conversation with Mr Morrison beforehand on these powers?

SIMS: I don’t think so Senator. I’m just trying to be as clear as I can. We have had a number of discussions obviously with the Prime Minister, previous Treasurer on energy matters as you can imagine. He's taken, when he was Treasurer, a keen interest in our study so we've had a lot of conversations but I think in terms of the divestiture thing, I don't think we have. Certainty I don’t think I have.

LATER ON…

SIMS: ….The view we formed was that to make the call on divestiture because it’s such a… it has such big implications, it’s a difficult judgement to form. You know the larger the implications, the more steps, the more thought that’s got to go into doing it. Contrast that with taking people to court which we do all the time, getting penalties against them. We’ve taken criminal cartel proceedings which could see people end up in gaol. They’re sort of graduated steps up and I guess divestiture is such an extreme step that we felt that judgement would be very hard to reach. Now it’s absolutely a policy question. There’s been a lot of people, and I mentioned Alan Fells, a lot of people have different views on it. I respect all views. Whatever we’re asked to do, we’ll do. But that was the judgement we reached Senator and our view hasn’t changed but you know this is policy questions. It’s a purely policy question. Whatever… I mean the Government’s there to make these calls. If that’s where that goes, then we’ll do the job asked of us.

THURSDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2018

MEDIA CONTACT: JAMES CULLEN (BOWEN) 0409 719 879 LUCY CARUSO (BUTLER) 0408 803 428