30 May 2017 

STATEMENTS from the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and the Shadow Consumer Affairs Minister on competition penalties court nothing more than a headline, says Small Business Minister Michael McCormack.

“The best Labor can do is put out yet another incorrect and incoherent media release. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be laughable,” Mr McCormack said.

“Sadly, as consumers and small businesses have come to expect, it’s another case of Labor’s ‘send first, study later’ approach to policy.”

The Shadow Ministers’ statement says – again – that penalties imposed for competition breaches in Australia are ‘stunningly lower than those in comparable jurisdictions’.

“Yet again, it’s a case of the Shadow Assistant Treasurer not doing his homework,” Mr McCormack said.

“Competition law penalties were brought into line with comparable jurisdictions in 2009 – while the Labor Party was in Government – and it is up to the courts to impose a penalty, which can include criminal offence provisions.

“Put simply, the penalties are already there.”

The current system sets the maximum penalty at the greater of $10 million or ‘three times the value of the benefit’ gained from the anticompetitive conduct, or 10 per cent of annual turnover in the preceding 12 months, if the benefit cannot be calculated.

“Our recent Budget also brought consumer penalties into line with competition penalties to ensure those who do the wrong thing are held accountable,” Mr McCormack said.

“The Shadow Assistant Treasurer has form ignoring the facts – we all remember his embarrassing OpEd which was officially corrected by the Sydney Morning Herald.

“But I would have thought a former barrister would know courts are the ones which impose penalties, not the watchdog.”

Mr McCormack said the revenue the Shadow Ministers claim will be raised is based on the idea that companies will continue to do the wrong thing.

“Our Budget is sensible and measured, and does not predict a huge revenue windfall from the changes to consumer penalties, because the Government believes penalties will serve as a deterrent,” Mr McCormack said.

“This is just another example of Labor making up money to pay for a power which is already there.”

Dom Hopkinson