ACCC Chairman Rod Sims recently addressed the National Press Club (the speech is available here) on the subject of economic philosophy and the role of the ACCC in Australia’s market economy. In addition to reviewing the achievements of the ACCC over the past year and explaining the importance of the ACCC being an active regulator, Sims explained the importance of the ACCC’s role in making the market economy work for all Australians.
The ACCC Chairman stated that all Australians have views about the ACCC’s role in Australia’s market economy and in this sense all Australians are economic philosophers. ‘Some think the ACCC should lower the price of petrol, or stop firms charging different prices in different locations for the same product’, Sims explained. Sims stressed the importance of the ACCC engaging with the public on issues like these, in order to prevent the public from losing faith in the market economy and preventing improper or misconceived regulation. Sims stated that the ACCC needs to communicate clearly and constantly what they do, what they are not doing and most importantly, why.
Sims noted that while clear boundaries around the pursuit of self-interest were essential, free markets and maximum competition were the best means to economic prosperity. Appreciating the irony in a competition regulator being more at the free market end of the spectrum, Sims reinforced his belief in the benefits of competition and explained that regulation would be used by the ACCC only a last resort to remedy competition’s inadequacies.
Sims recognised that the ACCC was often criticised for being a ‘toothless tiger’ and for not doing enough on some fronts. ‘Some think we are too intrusive, many think we should be doing more’, Sims stated. However, Sims asserted that the holders of such views should not merely be dismissed but rather respected and engaged with in order to explain the view of the ACCC, its law and its logic.