Senate debates

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2005

Consideration of House of Representatives Message

12:35 pm

Photo of Stephen ConroyStephen Conroy (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I accept your advice, as always. NARGA have been gutted. The big business community have got together and monstered these small business organisations and NARGA, in particular, have been gutted. They are not the organisation they were. The personnel have been changed, not by accident, not by willingness and not by design. NARGA in particular, who were the chief opponents of this bill 12 months ago, have been dudded by the big business community. Senator Fielding may be unaware of this. If anyone in the chamber is unaware of this, they should be made aware. Senator Joyce is absolutely aware of this. So let us make no pretence that small business have had some road-to-Damascus conversion on this bill—they have been monstered. This is a result of big business’s absolute determination to achieve their aim to bypass the ACCC.

Has the proposal to suddenly allow the ACCC to have representation achieved some sort of increase in their powers? You are deluding yourself. This is a fig leaf that achieves absolutely nothing in terms of more powers, as Senator Fielding has just articulated. There are no more powers by being able to present your case; they are simply not locked out. The purpose of this is to undermine the ACCC’s position on behalf of small business. There are no more powers here.

Senator Fielding, if you have done a deal to deliver more powers under section 46, stand up and explain what it is. Stand up and explain the extra powers that will be delivered in some future piece of legislation. That is the challenge, Senator Fielding—not to stand up and say, ‘The ACCC have been given more powers.’ They have not been in this bill. If you have done a deal, tell us what it us. Explain what those extra powers under section 46 will be. Are they perhaps drawn from the reports written by Senator Brandis, the Labor Party, the Greens or Senator Murray, which we all did—for those of us who have worked on this bill for years. Are those the powers you are referring to?

I think Senator Brandis wants to claim ownership of them. Senator Brandis does make a contribution; I do not always agree with him, but he does make a genuine contribution. So are you supporting Senator Brandis’s proposed changes in a future bill? If you are, just say so. But do not come in here and pretend that the ACCC have been given more powers in this bill. They categorically have not. The purpose of this bill as declared by the Business Council, who have pursued this for years, is to undermine the position of the ACCC. So if you have achieved something in this bill for a future bill, you have done a deal. So just come clean and admit it. Do not stand up and parrot the same sentence over and over again.

There are no extra powers in this bill for the ACCC. This bill guts the ACCC. The entire purpose of this bill was a desire born when the ACCC had Professor Fels as its articulate champion on behalf of small business and competition policy.


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