On November 13, Mr. Marcus Bezzi, Chief Advisor to the Competition Taskforce of Australia's Commonwealth Treasury, participated in a fireside chat with University of Melbourne's Prof. Julie Clarke, speaking on the work of Australia's Competition Taskforce, as well as going into how it operates, while sharing updates on key priorities and issues they seek to address.

The Taskforce was established in the Treasury to provide continuous advice on whether Australia’s competition policy settings are fit for purpose in the face of the big shifts underway in the economy.

Presentation Slides


Commonwealth Treasury's Competition Taskforce: An Australian Update From Marcus Bezzi

In a recent presentation that took place at Melbourne Law School last November 12, 2023, Marcus Bezzi, chief advisor of the Commonwealth Treasury's Competition Taskforce, provided a comprehensive overview of the taskforce's objectives, strategies, and focus areas. Professor Julie Clark, Professor in Competition Law in the Melbourne Law School, Associate Dean (Melbourne Law Masters), Associate Dean (Digital Technologies) and Director of the Global Competition and Consumer, continued the conversation with Marcus Bezzi and asked a series of questions during a fireside chat that followed.

The following summary of the presentation and conversation has been prepared by CPI.

Introduction to the Commonwealth Treasury's Competition Taskforce and Its Objectives

The Commonwealth Treasury's Competition Taskforce, a new initiative launched in response to emerging economic challenges, aims to address competition issues, enhance productivity, and alleviate concerns related to the cost of living. In this article, we delve into the key points from this presentation that explore the implications of the Competition Taskforce's work on Australia's economic landscape.

A Closer Look at the Commonwealth Treasury's Competition Taskforce

Bezzi began by highlighting the relatively recent establishment of the Competition Taskforce. The taskforce, announced on August 23rd by the Treasurer and the Assistant Minister for Competition, Andrew Leigh, is positioned within the Treasury and operates with around 30 members distributed across five locations, including Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane. The primary focus of the taskforce is to tackle new and emerging issues, going beyond the scope of existing laws. The importance of addressing productivity and cost-of-living concerns was emphasized, and parallels were drawn with the impactful 1993 Human Review, which is estimated to have boosted Australia's GDP by 2.5% percent, equivalent to $5,000 per household annually.

A Dynamic Approach: How the Competition Taskforce Reviews Competition Issues

Unlike traditional review processes, the Competition Taskforce adopts a dynamic and ongoing approach to providing advice to the government. Bezzi highlighted the taskforce's commitment to data-driven, evidence-based policymaking, emphasizing the importance of targeted consultations with various stakeholders, including academics, industry experts, and government agencies. This approach reflects a departure from previous reviews and aims to facilitate timely responses to emerging issues. The taskforce’s expert advisory panel was explained, being a group of distinguished individuals with diverse expertise, led by chair Kerry Schott. The panel includes former agency heads, economists, lawyers, and business leaders, each of whom contributes valuable insights and serves as a sounding board for the taskforce's ideas.

Global Relevance: Commonwealth Treasury's Competition Taskforce in an International Context

Bezzi underscored the global relevance of the taskforce's work by highlighting ongoing competition-related reviews in advanced jurisdictions, such as the US, the UK, the EU, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also identified critical issues, including improving competition in public procurement, addressing serial acquisitions, and managing intellectual property rights.

Exploring the Key Focus Areas of the Commonwealth Treasury's Competition Taskforce

The taskforce's current priorities revolve around five key areas: mergers and competition laws, coordinated national reform discussions, labor market issues, the changing economy driven by new technologies, and the care economy. Bezzi provided insights into each focus area, shedding light on the challenges and opportunities associated with each.

1. Mergers and Competition Laws:

Bezzi acknowledged concerns raised by stakeholders, particularly regarding the current merger control regime. The taskforce is exploring potential improvements to merger timing, clarity on when to notify mergers, and whether merger and foreign investment assessments can be streamlined. The importance of transparency in review processes and the ongoing debate about the merits of a merger clearance process versus the current enforcement model were also highlighted.

2. Labor Market Issues:

Unusual for a competition review, the taskforce is examining non-compete clauses, exploring their impact on labor mobility. Bezzi discussed ongoing international research and highlighted the taskforce's innovative approach, including hosting webinars with experts to better understand the complexities of non-compete agreements.

3. Changing Economy:

The taskforce recognizes the challenges posed by the changing economy, driven by new technologies, the transition to net zero, and the growth in the care economy. Bezzi emphasized the taskforce's engagement in ongoing reviews within the government related to the care economy and its commitment to evidence-based policy formulation.

4. Aviation Industry:

The taskforce is actively involved in the aviation industry, addressing competition concerns in domestic aviation. Bezzi mentioned ongoing research, data analytics, and stakeholder engagement, including consultations with the Expert Advisory Panel, to formulate advice for the government.

Concluding Thoughts: The Potential Impact of the Commonwealth Treasury's Competition Taskforce

Marcus Bezzi's presentation offers valuable insights into the Commonwealth Treasury's Competition Taskforce's initiatives, challenges, and focus areas. As the taskforce continues its dynamic and evidence-based approach to competition-related issues, its recommendations have the potential to shape Australia's economic landscape and contribute to increased productivity and improved living standards. The taskforce's commitment to ongoing consultations, data analytics, and international benchmarking positions it to become a key player in navigating the complexities of competition policy in the evolving global economy.

Enable Notifications    OK No thanks