ACCC & AER annual report 2016-17

Supporting our performance—improving regulatory practices

Each year we seek to review and improve the way we apply regulatory practices. In 2016–17 we improved regulatory practices through a range of activities, including through those described here.

Regulatory Economic Unit

The ACCC Regulatory Economic Unit increases the quality of economic analysis available to the ACCC/AER and promotes the consistent use of economic principles across the different sectors that we regulate. Its economic specialists provide advice across the ACCC/AER, as well as researching and developing best practice regulatory techniques and contributing to economic discussion, debate and training on regulatory issues.

Industry engagement

The ACCC consults extensively as part of its regulatory processes, and has also established a number of forums for ongoing engagement with industry participants and other regulators, both nationally and internationally. These forums cover the range of regulatory functions that the ACCC performs and the variety of industry sectors with which we are involved.

The ACCC also participates in international activities in order to be at the forefront of developments in regulatory practice.

Utility Regulators Forum

The Utility Regulators Forum is coordinated by the ACCC and comprises the ACCC/AER and state/territory and New Zealand economic regulators. Its meetings are an important vehicle for sharing regulatory practice.

The forum meets every six months. The most recent meeting was held in Darwin in May 2017.

ACCC/AER Infrastructure Consultative Committee

The Infrastructure Consultative Committee facilitates discussions on the broad issues of infrastructure and infrastructure regulation. Its members were selected to reflect the diversity of infrastructure interests. They include representatives from the energy, telecommunications, water, rail, ports, and airports sectors.

The committee meets every six months, most recently on 29 May 2017. At this meeting the ACCC updated participants on the new infrastructure related inquiries the ACCC has been directed to conduct. A number of developments, including the decision to build a new Sydney airport were discussed.

The committee also provides an opportunity for industry representatives to give updates on issues affecting their sectors. For the ACCC and AER this is an important source of feedback from stakeholders in infrastructure sectors.

OECD Network of Economic Regulators

The ACCC participates in the OECD Network of Economic Regulators (NER) Forum. ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes sits on the board of the Bureau of the NER, with seven representatives from other international regulators. The purpose of the NER Forum is to share learning on regulatory issues and develop best practices. Issues discussed at the most recent forum include building regulatory policy systems, stakeholder engagement, the role of regulators in the governance of infrastructure, and safeguarding regulators against undue influence.

ACCC/AER Regulatory Conference

The ACCC and AER host an annual regulatory conference, which brings together industry participants, policy-makers, academics and regulators from around the world to consider the latest ideas about regulatory theory and practice.

The 2016 ACCC/AER Regulatory Conference was held in Brisbane on 4–5 August 2017 and was attended by more than 400 delegates. It provided an opportunity for local and international experts to discuss current and emerging issues affecting all regulated infrastructure sectors. The conference theme was ‘The future of economic regulation: does the conventional wisdom still apply?’. The aim of this was to examine whether the traditional thinking about how and why to regulate was still applicable in light of the sweeping changes occurring in energy, communications and other key sectors. Issues covered included how regulation should address possible market power of non-vertically integrated monopoly infrastructure, regulation of OTT services and the future of the electricity industry.