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Macfarlane puts ACCC break-up on the table

A BREAK-UP of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been canvassed by Federal Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources Ian Mac-farlane, who advocates the separation of regulation and consumer protection powers.

Mr Macfarlane was speaking ahead of this week’s draft report from the Council of Australian Government’s Energy Market Review.

The review, chaired by Warwick Parer, is to report to the Ministerial Council of Energy, chaired by Mr Macfarlane, by December 20 and the public submission time – November 15-December 6 – is consequentially short.

Senator Macfarlane told delegates at last month’s Australian Pipeline Industry Association conference that he was keen for a single energy regulator.

But he did not stop there.

When questioned further, he canvassed the idea that regulation aspects could be separated from consumer protection powers, something for which industry has been calling with regard to the ACCC.

A spokesperson for Mr Macfarlane said the Government was not considering a break-up of the ACCC, and nor was Mr Macfarlane advocating this.

“He’s just canvassing it, saying these are things to look at,” the spokesperson said.

“You have to say these things to get an industry reaction.

Federal member for Curtin Julie Bishop confirmed Mr Macfarlane’s tactics.

“He was just putting it out there, where the ACCC might sit in relation to this,” Ms Bishop said.

All major companies would receive separate briefings on the draft, but Mr Macfarlane was putting out some ideas ahead of the review’s report, the outcomes of which would really call for some tough decisions, she said.

Under a single national energy regulator, total control over gas and electricity pricing would be taken away from State governments, Mr Macfarlane said.

Mr Macfarlane, who has been accused by Shadow Minister for Resources Joel Fitzgibbon of “seeking to lower expectations of anything innovative emerging from the Parer review”, said he was keen to present a comprehensive set of energy reforms to Cabinet next year, for consideration by CoAG.

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