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Competition Policy | Object of the CCA



There was no objects clause in the original Act, but in his Second Reading Speech, then Attorney-General, Senator Lionel Murphy, stated that its purpose was 'to control restrictive trade practices and monopolies and to protect consumers from unfair commercial practices.' (Parliamentary Debates, Senate, 30 July 1974, page 540). At page 548 the purpose of the Act was also described as being 'to promote efficiency and competition in business, to reduce prices and to protect all Australians against unfair practices.' (see French 2004). Justice French has observed that '[b]eyond that very broad statement of intent and the other statements referred to earlier there was not much in the way of a coherent policy framework or theory to explain the presence in the one statute of its seemingly disparate measures.' (French 2004)

In Qld Wire the Court referred to competition in the context of the Act as being a means to an end. Justice French explains:

Competition is not so much a goal in itself as a means to an end. What Mason CJ and Wilson J said of s 46 in the Queensland Wire case could be applied to all of the provisions of the Act designed to protect competition:

‘… the object … is to protect the interests of consumers, the operation of the section being predicated on the assumption that competition is a means to that end.’

... The Hilmer Committee said that competition policy ‘seeks to facilitate effective competition to promote efficiency and economic growth while accommodating situations where competition does not achieve efficiency or conflicts with other social objectives’. The protection of consumers as a group was seen as an area distinct from competition policy despite its acknowledgment ‘that both policies benefit consumers and that some consumer protection provisions improve the efficiency of markets’ [p XVI and fn 3]. The Dawson Committee, focussing upon Pt IV of the Act, acknowledged that competition is not an end in itself but ‘an important means whereby an economy can achieve economic efficiency’. This it linked to the ultimate outcome of sustaining ‘economic welfare’ [p 33]. (French 2004 at para 7)

The current Act contains an objects clause in s 2.

'The object of this Act is to enhance the welfare of Australians through the promotion of competition and fair trading and provision for consumer protection.'

This clause was inserted by Competition Policy Reform Act 1995 (Act 88 of 1995)