The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission welcomes the Federal Government’s decision to provide increased resources to boost its engagement with rural and regional industries, small businesses and consumers.
The Government has indicated its plans to implement policy outlined in the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, including allocating $11.4 million over four years to establish an Agricultural Enforcement and Engagement Unit with additional staff to conduct investigations and engagement in rural and regional areas.
“The ACCC will prioritise detecting, deterring and taking action against conduct that breaches the Competition and Consumer Act (2010) (CCA) that affects farmers and small businesses in rural and regional areas, particularly cartels, misuse of market power, and misleading or unconscionable conduct,” Acting Chair Delia Rickard said.
“The ACCC will strengthen its engagement with agricultural industries to understand factors effecting competition in rural and regional markets. This will also enable the ACCC to better explain its decisions to farmers and regional small businesses.”
Through the collective bargaining authorisation process, the ACCC has a long record of strengthening the position of growers and processers across a range of sectors including dairy, poultry, vegetables and seafood.
“The ACCC has long recognised the importance of the agriculture sector to the Australian economy and understands that there are unique and challenging circumstances affecting industry participants. We will continue to promote potential pro-competitive strategies to enhance efficiencies and bolster productivity, such as collective bargaining by regional and rural businesses,” Ms Rickard said.
The government announcement gives the ACCC additional resources, but not new powers. The ACCC already has powers under the CCA and currently prioritises truth in labelling, cartels, and unlawful arrangements that have the purpose or likely effect of substantially lessening competition. We will continue to use our existing powers to examine issues in the agriculture sector.
The ACCC understands the Government intends to appoint a new commissioner with responsibility for agriculture issues. Commissioners are full-time members responsible for making decisions across all facets of the economy within the powers set out in the CCA. Statutory appointments are a matter for government.