Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5816

Competition Policy


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:34): We'd never know, Mr President, would we! My question is to the Minister for Regional Development, Senator Nash. Can the minister update the Senate on how the coalition government's reforms to misuse of market power laws will create a fairer and more competitive marketplace for regional small businesses, farmers and families?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:34): I thank Senator Williams for the question and acknowledge his long involvement on not only this issue but all issues affecting small businesses across the country. I'm delighted to stand up in the Senate today to welcome the effects test legislation, which passed in this place yesterday. Fixing section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act has been a core mission for the coalition government in addressing a longstanding weakness in our competition laws. I am proud to say that this coalition has now delivered.

What this reform means is that our competition regulator, the ACCC, now has the powers it needs—and, in fact, told us it needed—to crack down on conduct by large companies that is likely to kill small businesses and ultimately lead to less competition. These laws are a win for consumers, small businesses and our farmers. There is simply no other way to look at it. Think of the bakery in Ballarat, the newsagent in Narromine or the small grocer in Geraldton and how they will now be protected from conduct that could threaten their viability and ultimately reduce competition for consumers in those communities. And we know how important it is to those small businesses. Not only was this important reform recommended by the Harper review; the coalition took these issues to the last election, where we sought a mandate from the Australian people. I am proud to say that we have fulfilled that promise. After all, we are a government that means what it says and does what it means.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a supplementary question.



Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:36): How true, Minister. Can the minister advise whether these important reforms have been welcomed by stakeholders and explain why it is so important that we support small business and farmers?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:36): These changes are about standing up for those people who have the guts to invest in and start up their own business and protecting them from being bullied and driven out of business by large competitors. These reforms are absolutely critical not just for our regional small businesses but in particular for our farmers. This coalition government is going to continue to support our farmers. We know that our farmers remain at the mercy of Australia's supermarket duopoly and face constant pressure, year in, year out, to accept the prices they're offered, simply because of the market power and how concentrated it is. Interestingly, the National Farmers' Federation has welcomed the effects test, describing it as a watershed moment and saying it will help level the playing field for small businesses, including farm businesses. This is what standing up for the little guy looks like—and perhaps those opposite might try it some time.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a final supplementary question.



Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:37): I thank the minister for the good news. Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches that would allow big corporations to continue misusing their market power?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:37): I am. And I think it is astounding that despite the overwhelming support of virtually every respected organisation, commentator and even the regulator itself—not to mention the huge win this represents for Australian farmers and small businesses—the Labor Party doesn't support this legislation. It would be extraordinary to think what blue-collar workers and unions think of Labor being in the pocket of big business. I notice they've all gone very quiet over there. Labor has failed to stand up for Australia's 3.2 million small businesses, including 540,000 based in our regions. They have turned their back on Australia's 134,000 farm businesses. While Labor's loyalty remains 100 per cent behind dodgy unions who stitch up dodgy deals for their workers, we on this side of the chamber are committed to protecting small businesses and standing up for farmers and we're going to make sure they get a fair go.