The Australian competition policy reformsAllan Fels
This chapter reviews the reforms to Australian competition policy introduced in November 1995, paying particular attention to the reforms relating to the regulation of public utilities. The general reforms have a number of distinctive features including:
|• the establishment of a comprehensive competition policy; |
|• the establishment of a national policy based on an agreement between the Australian government and state and territory governments; |
|• the establishment of a generic access law embodied in a new part of the Trade Practices Act. This regime applies in principle to all sectors although its main practical application is to public utilities in such areas as communications, energy and transport; |
|• the transfer of substantial economic regulatory functions to the national competition agency; |
|• a strong commitment by national state, and territory governments to an effective policy. |
This chapter begins by reviewing the concept of a comprehensive national competition policy. It then turns to Australian reforms as they relate to public monopolies; outlines the main features of the generic access law; and discusses the transfer of economic regulatory functions to the national competition agency. The chapter concludes with a case study of telecommunications regulation.
A comprehensive national competition policy
Competition policy is sometimes equated with the traditional antitrust, competition or trade practices laws of a country. However, many other policies affect competition. A comprehensive competition policy includes all government policies that affect the state of competition in any sector of the economy including policies that restrict as well as those that promote competition and extends well beyond traditional competition law.