24/07/2007 - 22:00

Ministers seek protection for SMEs

24/07/2007 - 22:00

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Some state small business ministers have expressed concern the federal government’s proposed changes to the Trade Practices Act, which aim to protect small businesses against anti-competitive practices by large corporations, may not go far enough.

Ministers seek protection for SMEs

Some state small business ministers have expressed concern the federal government’s proposed changes to the Trade Practices Act, which aim to protect small businesses against anti-competitive practices by large corporations, may not go far enough.

Amending the TPA is one of a number of issues to be discussed at a meeting of the Small Business Ministerial Council to be held in Perth this Friday.

The meeting, which will be chaired by WA Small Business Minister Margaret Quirk, will be attended by state and federal small business ministers from Australia and NZ.

It will address the federal government’s draft legislation to amend the Trade Practices Act 1974, tabled last month, which includes further protection for small businesses against the misuse of market power by corporations.

Specifically, the legislation aims to combat predatory pricing and leveraging, as well as addressing issues around plaintiffs bringing successful claims against corporations in breach of the TPA.

The legislation also proposes a deputy chairperson be appointed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to deal with small business matters.

Ms Quirk said it was important that the legislation protected small businesses from creeping acquisitions by large corporations.

“What small business has been arguing for is changes to the Trade Practices Act, to require the ACCC to consider the cumulative effect of mergers and acquisitions over a minimum of four years,” she said. 

“Decisions in the High Court recently have set a very high threshold test for proving that a business takeover or pricing policy is anticompetitive.”

Ms Quirk said the impact of consolidation among small businesses was a concern, particularly in the retailing of petrol, groceries and liquor.

Other issues on the council’s agenda include streamlining business name registration across state borders, achieving mutual recognition of licensing requirements, and assisting businesses operating in multiple states.

“It is madness that a small business in one state must abide by a different set of licensing requirements, in order to set up a similar business in another state,” Ms Quirk said.

Also up for discussion are broadband access, assistance for small business in drought-affected areas, and the impact of local government regulations on home-based businesses.

 

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