Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has questioned the outcomes of the Harper Competition Policy Review last week and plans to challenge the Harper Review’s proposed changes to market power laws.
Cabinet Ministers are considering Mr Joyce’s agriculture competitiveness paper that considers tougher competition law changes to protect farmers from alleged misuse of market power by supermarkets and food processors, as was recommended by the Harper review, according to the Financial Review.
Mr Joyce aims to state a case for stricter competition policy with a focus on Section 46 of the Competition Act, which deals with misuse of market power.
While the Harper review did not address the issue of ‘farm gate’ prices, it recommended changes to section 46 governing misuse of market power to bring it into line with other prohibitions by focusing on competition and not competitors, and extending section 46 to practices that have the purpose, or effect of substantially lessening competition.
Mr Joyce said that his agriculture competitiveness paper received 670 submissions. “The problem is exploitation at the farm gate by a centralised purchaser of products – and what is the Harper review’s suggested remedy that will work,” he said.
The move by Mr Joyce comes as the grocery and food industry’s Paddock to Plate report called for regulatory reform that enhances competiveness, increases productivity and decreases the cost of doing business.
Sector priorities for reform included inflexible labour laws, transportation inefficiencies, and duplication issues across national, state and local legislation such as food health and safety laws and regulation of retail trading hours.