Thursday, 19 October 2006
Trade Practices Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2005
Consideration of House of Representatives Message
I am happy that this amendment has come forward. I am happy that obviously there has been an acceptance that the ACCC does need more time. Unfortunately, the acceptance that it does need more time has come at midnight. What I fail to understand is the Family First position that the ACCC has more powers and everything is going to be better under this and then, within five minutes of that, Family First moving an amendment acknowledging that the ACCC does not have enough powers. In five minutes we have had a change, from a speech which said that the ACCC had enough powers, to an amendment, which is accepted, which acknowledges that the ACCC does not. Mind you, five minutes is a long time in politics, and it is an eternity here today. But we are heading in the right direction. We went from an unlimited time frame for the ACCC back to 40 days—which is obviously just a kick in the backside to get you to the Australian Competition Tribunal so that the merger can go through—and the position that the ACCC does not have enough powers and needs more time, which the government is agreeing to. I will certainly be voting for this amendment because it acknowledges the issue that we have been bringing up—that the ACCC is restricted and needs more time.
To be frank, I commend Senator Fielding for being able to negotiate this. You have been very successful in being able to do something that quite a few people have wanted to do—that is, to get more time. You are obviously a key player and people acknowledge that. I hope that you realise that an extra 20 days, at the end of the day, is not going to do it. If you have PBL and News Ltd merging, the ACCC will need more than 60 business days to deal with it. There are some pretty big issues there that need to be discussed. When KKR break up Coles, and Woolies comes in and buys it all up, you will have the small business people knocking down your door. They will come and visit you then, because their life will have gone down the toilet, and they will probably suggest that, had you given them a bit more time, it would have been helpful.
We are talking about an amendment, not the Dawson provisions. We are talking about an amendment on mergers and acquisitions law—schedule 1. When you talk about anything else, you are not telling the facts. If we were talking about collective bargaining, the legislation would be here; we would be voting on it. But we are not voting on it, because it has already passed. It has gone through. So any reference to a piece of legislation that has passed is blatantly ridiculous, unless someone is holding you under duress.
There are no more chambers that collective bargaining can go through. It has been through the lower house; it has been through this house. Unless we open up Old Parliament House and chuck it through a couple more chambers, it has been through every chamber it can possibly go through in this country—that is it. What we are dealing with is an amendment on mergers and acquisitions law. Family First has acknowledged that the ACCC needs more time because of the complexity of the legislation and protecting Australian democracy. This amendment does not give us enough time—but I will be supporting it.