A significant milestone for the implementation of the national competition policy has been reached today (July 21), Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today.

"Under the Competition Policy Reform Act, State and Territory application laws extending the Trade Practices Act to all Australian business were due to be effective by today," Professor Fels said.

"This means there should be universal application of the competition principles of the Act across Australia - achieving one of the major recommendations of the Hilmer Report.

"All States and Territories, with the exception of Western Australia, have enacted the necessary application Acts. The WA Parliament has introduced such a Bill and its passage only awaits the return of Parliament from recess. The WA Parliament has received a favourable report on the national competition policy.

"In preparation for the changes, the ACCC has conducted a comprehensive program of compliance education to help business groups and government business enterprises understand their obligations and responsibilities under the competition provisions of the Act.

"This education program is continuing and includes extensive liaison with State government departments and authorities, and relevant peak industry organisations; seminars and the publication of targeted educative material.

"Under the new arrangements, the ability of the State and Territories to make laws exempting conduct from the TPA has been reduced. This has been done in a number of ways, including the requirement that such laws exempt conduct from the Act in a transparent way.

"This transparency is achieved by the requirement that exempting laws must expressly refer to the TPA. The Commonwealth must be notified of any new exemption within 30 days. The Commonwealths power to override State or Territory exemptions, unless exercised within four months of receiving notification, cannot occur without first obtaining a report on the exemption from the National Competition Council.

"The 'shield of the crown' for the States and Territories also is now removed.

"The conduct rules to which all unincorporated enterprises and government authorities and business are now subject are well known in the wider market place. The rules are well settled in terms of legal precedent and business risk management practices.

"Enterprises newly subject to the restrictive trade practices provisions of the TPA will be able, in appropriate circumstances, to use the protections already provided by the Authorisation/Notification processes in the Act.

"A major change for businesses previously excluded from the TPA is that they will now be subject to remedies other than pecuniary penalties, for example orders for damages, compensation, injunctions and other orders (e.g. corrective advertising)."

Professor Fels said the final stage of implementation would occur in 12 months' time when all unincorporated enterprises and State Government authorities will be subject to pecuniary penalties for contraventions of Part IV of the TPA.