On April 11, 1995, all Australian jurisdictions signed up to the National Competition Policy Agreements which required the States to review all legislation that may restrict competition. Governments agreed that legislation should not restrict competition unless it could be shown that the benefits of the restriction to the community as a whole outweigh the costs, and the objectives of the legislation can be achieved only by restricting competition. Reviews were originally to be completed by December 2000 but there have been progressive extensions of this deadline.
Western Australia has now submitted its final progress report to the National Competition Council and is awaiting the Council’s assessment. WA receives $70 million annually in “competition payments” which are made by the Federal Government based on the hypothesis that deregulation in the States will result in an increase in Federal revenue from taxation.
There is some concern that WA may not get the necessary elephant stamp for good behaviour from the Council as it has rejected deregulation in two areas.
WA remains the only State to resist deregulation of retail trading hours. After a sustained campaign by independent grocers, the Government decided to extend retail trading hours only for weeknights from July 2005. Restrictions on Sunday trading will be retained.
The Government also accepted the recommendation from the Legislation Review of the Marketing of Potatoes Act to retain the Potato Marketing Corporation which controls the production, supply and wholesale price of potatoes. Chris Perrott, the CEO of the Corporation, says that the decision complies with competition review guidelines because the system produces a net benefit to taxpayers, growers and consumers.
Retail prices in Perth are lower than in any other capital city. The retail sector of the supply chain receives about three times the return to growers compared to eight times the return to growers in deregulated markets.
WA Minister for Agriculture, Kim Chance, is looking at reregulation of the dairy industry in response to the exodus of 25% of dairy farmers after deregulation resulted in farm gate prices dropping to levels that made farming unsustainable for many producers.
- Richard Egan