Levelling the playing field for small business

A LANDMARK review of Australian competition policy, introduced into Federal Parliament this week, backs small businesses to grow, innovate and create more jobs, Small Business Minister Michael McCormack says.

Mr McCormack said the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Bill 2017, implements a number of recommendations from the Harper Review to back small business.

“When Australia’s small businesses are able to compete on their merits, they can pursue new ideas, expand and create more jobs across the country,” Mr McCormack said.

“The Government backs small business and is committed to pursuing the benefits of competition for all Australians across the economy. We know better competition leads to better services and more choice for consumers.

“Making these reforms a reality will reinvigorate competition and harness the benefits it brings for the economy and Australians.”

Undertaken by Professor Ian Harper, the review of competition policy was the first wide-scale review in 20 years.

“These reforms level the playing field for small business and will ensure our competition policy is modern and gives Australia’s 2.1 million small businesses the flexibility they need,” Mr McCormack said.

“This Bill will build on our reform of section 46 of the Act which is currently before Parliament.  The ‘effects test’ will allow small business to compete on their merits against businesses with substantial market power.

“Thanks to our changes, small business will be able to deal with conduct of most concern – anti‑competitive contracts, arrangements or understandings, cartels, collective bargaining and boycotts and resale price maintenance.”

Mr McCormack said the changes will also improve small business’ bargaining position with large suppliers.

“We know that with collective bargaining, small businesses typically have less bargaining power than a large supplier, putting them at a disadvantage in individual negotiations. Through these provisions, the Government has improved the bargaining position of small business,” Mr McCormack said.

“Simplifying the process and introducing greater flexibility in the collective bargaining framework will enable small business to get on with doing what they do best and provide them with the ability to negotiate with bargaining power equal to a larger firm, achieving a more efficient and pro‑competitive outcome.

Mr McCormack said the competition changes are the latest part of the Government’s plan to back small business.

“We are the Government for small business. From lower taxes to simpler paperwork and fairer competition policy to the introduction of unfair contract terms protection, we want to put the framework in place to see small business grow, compete on their merits and create more local jobs,” Mr McCormack said.

“This legislation is just the latest part of our plan.”

Cristy Houghton