The federal government has handed down its formal response to the Competition Policy Review conducted by Professor Ian Harper, flagging its support for deregulating retail trading hours and the removal of parallel import restrictions on books.
Treasurer Scott Morrison says the government is eager to see “more choice, better services and stronger economic growth”.
However, a decision on the introduction of an effects test has been delayed until February.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Government’s response to the Harper review.
Retail trading hours
The Harper review recommended deregulating all retail trading hours, citing the growth in online shopping as undermining the logic behind the current restrictions on bricks-and-mortar stores.
The government has flagged its support for this, although it pointed out retail trading hours are the responsibility of the states.
“The government recognises that states and territories are at different stages of reform, and that some states have fewer restrictions than others,” the government said.
“Nonetheless, there is scope for further deregulation in all states.”
The Harper review recommended relaxing the laws that govern who is able to own a pharmacy.
As it stands, only pharmacists are able to own a pharmacy, however, the competition review recommended allowing supermarkets to operate pharmacies.
The government said it “notes” this recommendation, rather than supporting it.
While the Turnbull government “recognises the need for competition in the pharmacy sector”, it said it has struck an agreement with the Pharmacy Guild to launch an independent review of pharmacy guidelines.
The final report is not due until March 2017.
The government says it supports the removal of parallel import restrictions on books.
This is in line with the Harper review, which suggested getting rid of parallel imports unless it can be shown the benefits of the import restrictions to the community as a whole outweigh the costs.
However, the government will not act on parallel import restrictions until the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Australia’s intellectual property arrangements is finalised.
The effects test
The government has held off on making its decision on an effects test until next year, with a discussion paper to be handed down in February.
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Treasurer Scott Morrison said the government is delaying its decision in order to “arrive at the right outcome” for what is a “complex issue”.
“It’s about what’s best for consumers,” Morrison said.
“There are a range of complex legal arguments that go around section 46, but my purpose today is to make the point that that is an important issue, there is no doubt about that.
“But the other 55 recommendations are critical to the functioning of our economy.”
The small business community has expressed its disappointment with the delay, saying big business has “influenced” cabinet.