The Business Council of Australia has today issued a report showing that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s staffing has increased from 540 in 2001-2 to 876 in 2011–12, or 4.95% per annum (the current number of working full time equivalent staff is actually just over 800). It seeks to make a point about the growth in regulatory spending and staff numbers.
The ACCC’s growth over this period is associated with completely new functions and responsibilities, most assumed from state regulators and other bodies. Without these additional functions, the ACCC’s base line growth since 2001-2 has been 1.8% per annum.
The ACCC’s new functions and responsibilities in the past ten years include:
- The establishment of the Australian Energy Regulator (2005) following CoAG agreement to create a national energy market regulator has seen the transition of gas and electricity regulatory and enforcement functions from state regulators to the AER over the past 8 years.
- In 2007, the ACCC became responsible for the development, monitoring and enforcement of water market and charge rules in the Murray Darling Basin.
- Under the Wheat Export Marketing Act 2008, the ACCC is responsible for monitoring compliance of port operators for bulk export wheat.
- Following the completion of its Fuel inquiry in 2007, the ACCC was directed by the government to undertake monitoring of the prices, costs and profits of unleaded petrol in Australia.
- The ACCC assumed responsibility for the regulation of the Hunter Valley rail line from IPART in 2011.
- In 2009, the ACCC became Australia’s national product safety regulator.
While the underlying staff growth of 1.8% per annum is below real GDP growth, this staffing increase has had to accommodate increased roles in our core areas, such as the regulation of the NBN, the introduction of the Australian Consumer Law, the criminalisation of cartel conduct and carbon price claims, to name a few.
Indeed, in the ACCC’s core responsibilities, such as in enforcing competition law, the ACCC’s staffing has likely not increased at all since 2001-2 despite the greater size and complexity of the Australian economy.
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