Leigh-ving out the detail

ANOTHER week, another couple of thought bubbles from Shadow Assistant Treasurer Dr Andrew Leigh, says Small Business Minister Michael McCormack.

“The Shadow Assistant Treasurer has been quite busy this week, marching up and down the press gallery to shop-out his ideas on everything from small business protection to petrol prices,” Mr McCormack said.

“With every breath Dr Leigh has continued his obsession with the so-called ‘loony right’ and he’s said almost anything to get his name in the paper. The only problem is he harps on for a headline but is deficient on detail.”

In a wide-ranging doorstop with only one question from a journalist in Canberra today, Dr Leigh spoke about a range of ideas he has for self-promotion.

“The doorstop from Dr Leigh today was apparently about protection for Australia’s 2.1 million small businesses. If the Shadow Minister’s interest is genuine and if the Labor Party wants to have credibility in delivering protection for small business, then I would encourage them to support the changes to Section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act,” Mr McCormack said.

“These are the most sweeping changes to protection for small businesses in a generation. They are something which will level the playing field for Australian small businesses and enable them to compete on their merits.

“But as long as Labor continues to oppose the Government’s changes to Section 46, its small business and competition policies have no credibility. Labor prefers the current drafting of the law, which sees small business unable to complete on a level playing field, rather than fixing the law itself.”

Mr McCormack said whilst the Shadow Minister has paced the press gallery, the Government has delivered a plan with broad support from the small business sector.

“A report from the Senate Economics Legislation Committee[1] – released today – confirms the broad support for changes to Section 46 and the significant step forward and improvement in competition law,” Mr McCormack said.

“Dr Julie Clarke, Associate Professor at Deakin Law School, asserted the bill addresses key deficiencies of the current Section 46, also commenting that the 'proposed new provision is better aligned with the objectives of the law than the one it will replace'. (p. 7-8) 

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) contended that the introduction of an effects test to Section 46 'will help protect Australia's 135 000 farm businesses from unfair marketplace conduct, which will in turn drive innovation and jobs growth for the Australian economy'. (p.8)

Dr Leigh’s statements on petrol prices today follow an interview on Sky News yesterday, where, in citing Agatha Christie instead of action the Labor Party took in Government to lower prices for consumers at the bowser, Dr Leigh was left exposed.

“Agatha Christie had a wonderful ability to cast readers into fantasy worlds through fiction – but I have to say Dr Leigh gave the novelist a run for her money yesterday!” Mr McCormack said.

“Rather than acknowledging the Petrol Commissioner and FuelWatch were abject failures during the Rudd Government, Dr Leigh avoided answering questions about any tangible action taken by Labor at the time.

“Labor’s approach seems to be Market Studies Power – something for which the ACCC already has the power, either through self-initiated inquiries or by Ministerial direction.

“The ACCC is currently undertaking monitoring of prices, costs and profits in the national unleaded petrol market under Ministerial direction. It is also undertaking market studies into regional petrol markets to seek to explain price differentials and international oil price pass-through in Darwin, Cairns, Armidale and Launceston.”

Mr McCormack said Dr Leigh’s performance this week shows he is not serious.

“Labor is not committed to taking action on petrol prices. Consumers are just the latest chapter of the Shadow Minister’s fictional folly whilst he also stands in the way of a proven method of small business protection,” Mr McCormack said.

“It’s time to stop Leigh-ving out the detail in Labor’s loony lines.”


Cristy Houghton