ACCC needs global vision

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has defended accusations made by ASX chairman Maurice Newman that the consumer watchdog's actions are "out of touch with reality".

Newman, who was speaking at a Committee for Economic Development for Australia (CEDA) lunch yesterday, said the ACCC's enforcement of the Trade Practices Act of 1974 was stifling the development of the nation's involvement in an internet-enabled global economy.

According to Newman, technological advances, primarily the broad take-up of the internet as a business tool, have resulted in a rapid shift toward a global economy -- an economy that Australia will struggle to participate in if local businesses primarily compete against one another.

"What we want to do is to remove obstacles that will prevent us from reaching the ultimate objective, which is to build a more stable society where the benefits are shared more evenly," Newman said.

Resisting participation in global markets "is not going to achieve that end".

"We really need to think about some of the damage that the ACCC is doing, presumably in the simple pursuit of what the Trade Practices Act requires it to do. That (legislation) requires amendment," Newman added.

However, Lin Enright, the ACCC's public relations manager, defended the watchdog committee, claiming it had never "knocked back" a merger with global implications.

Furthermore, Enright pointed out that the Trade Practices Act was amended in Parliament "almost every year", since its 1974 inception.

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