ACCC Chairman discusses current priorities

The broad ranging speech covered the ACCC’s new role regarding the repeal of the carbon tax, general competition issues, emerging product safety matters, regulation of the National Broadband Network (NBN) as well as the Harper Review of Australia’s competition laws and privatisation.

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In the speech Mr Sims confirmed that the ACCC is investigating the Boral/CFMEU matter, as previously advised to the Senate Economics Committee during the June Estimates hearings.

“The ACCC has launched an in-depth investigation into conduct by the CFMEU at Boral building sites,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“We have a dedicated team considering this matter and our enquiries are continuing.”

Mr Sims also confirmed, in response to recent press speculation that the ACCC is looking into allegations of anti-competitive conduct involving the Transport Workers Union and Toll. The allegations were made during hearings of the Royal Commission on Union Corruption.

“Detecting, stopping and deterring significant anti-competitive conduct is a high priority for the ACCC.”

The Chairman noted some criticisms that the regulator had recently received for not confirming whether it is looking into these matters, while on the other hand, the ACCC has been also criticised by some in the business community for confirming investigations that can reflect poorly on the companies involved.

“The ACCC has around 80 in-depth investigations underway, of which, virtually all are confidential,” Mr Sims said.

“As a general rule the ACCC policy is to keep investigations confidential; it does not seek to publicise specific matters and traders until an investigation is concluded and a decision has been made on whether to initiate court proceedings or take other action.”

The Chairman said that the ACCC will only indicate its involvement in a matter if it considers, on balance, that there is a clear public interest in doing so. For example, if the ACCC decided that publicity might encourage witnesses to come forward to assist investigators. Likewise, if allegations have become the subject of significant public controversy, it may be in the public interest for the ACCC to explain what it is doing to prevent inaccurate or unfair speculation.