This week the Government provided its response to the Competition Policy Review, better known as the Harper Review. The Review, commissioned by the Government and publicly released in March this year, provided a broad analysis of Australia's competition framework making 56 recommendations to modernise and simplify Australia's competition laws.
ALGA welcomed the review and lodged a submission late last year which supported some of the draft recommendations while outlining concerns with several other recommendations relevant to Local Government, specifically those relating to human services, planning and zoning that appeared to oversimplify how competition policy could impact these public services. You can access ALGA's submission at this link.
The Government has supported 39 of the Harper Review's recommendations in full or in principle and a further 5 recommendations in part. It has also noted 12 recommendations in areas where implementation will be considered following further review and consultation.
ALGA is working through the detail of the Government's response but there are clearly areas where Local Government will need to be engaged on the implementation of some of the recommendations, such as recommendation 3 which calls for the introduction of cost-reflective road pricing. ALGA supports this recommendation and has long argued for improved road pricing mechanisms based on road user charges and investment needs. However, we have also strongly maintained that moving to a more direct road pricing mechanism should not result in a reduction in, or reallocation of, existing funding available to councils from the Commonwealth and state and territory governments.
The Government's broad response to the Review also places an emphasis on the provision of competition policy payments for reforms undertaken by governments that lead to improved productivity and economic growth. ALGA will continue to argue that Local Government should be entitled to such payments where councils are the ones incurring the costs of implementing reforms.
Governments will need to work together to implement the reforms in response to the Review and we look forward to engagement and consultation on the development and implementation of any reform proposals.
Mayor Troy Pickard