Harper Review

Mario Dreosti , 11 April 2015

Mario Dreosti outlines the sections of the Competition Policy Review that are of immediate relevance to the profession.

Last year the ACA made representation on behalf of members to the Federal Treasury consultation regarding the extension of unfair contract term protection to small businesses. Most ACA members are in fact small businesses making this consultation, which has now closed, particularly relevant. A response from Treasury is awaited.

As a separate consultation, the Competition Policy Review (known as the Harper Review) commissioned by the Federal Government in December 2013 has now been completed and was released for consultation on 31 March 2015.

This review is extremely broad in scope covering all of Australia's competition policy, laws and institutions to ensure competitive, contemporary conduct which promotes competition, diversity in providers and consumer choice.

The review provides recommendations that address items across a broad field – including as taxi licencing, fuel pricing and rate setting for the liner shipping industry.

Certain elements are of particular interest to architects, directly or indirectly. The relevant key findings and recommendations include: 

  • Reviewing the processes for incorporation of intellectual property provisions in international trade agreements
  • Reviewing the nature of regulation of industries which a specific focus on removing restriction to competition. Competition should not be restricted unless the benefits to the community outweigh the costs and the objectives can only be achieved by restriction. Registration of architects is directly relevant. 
  • Considerations to make significant changes to planning and zoning policies nationwide effectively removing restrictions on retail areas or planning arguments relating to competing business activities, as well as a general focus to broaden and  simplify land use opportunities and approvals.
  • Recommendation to periodically review Australian Standards against a public interest test in light of their potential to reduce competition and productivity.
  • Strengthening of restrictions on misuse of market power for large organisations who may be able to lessen competition in the market. These restrictions may be relevant to suppliers or clients of architects.

The ACA is considering a response to the report on selected matters. Members who wish to undertake further reading or provide comments can access the final report here.

Mario Dreosti is a member of the ACA – SA Committee and a director of Brown Falconer Architects. 

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