New Reform Sectors, particularly the implementation of competition principles to human services like health, education and community services, was an important issue raised at the Competition Policy Review (CPR) International Conference in Canberra on 23 October.

The draft CPR Report proposed guiding principles for a new Commonwealth, state and territory intergovernmental agreement to establish choice and competition principles in human services, including: 

  • user choice to be placed at the heart of service delivery;
  • funding, regulation and service delivery should be separated;
  • a diversity of providers should be encouraged, while not crowding out community and voluntary services; and
  • innovation in service provision should be stimulated, while ensuring access to high quality human services.

Distinguished panellists at the conference raised important issues to be cautious about in the application of competition principles to human service delivery. In particular, the motivations and aspirations of both users and providers of health, welfare and education services differ from those which typically apply to other goods and services. Further, there is a lack of empirical evidence and hard data to justify and measure new programs. The 'mixed' experience of reform to the health sector in the United Kingdom provided a sobering case study for Conference participants.

The key message is that the principles suggested in the Draft CPR Report may lead to the implementation of programs (for example, voucher systems, improved access to information) which will have dramatic impacts on education providers (universities in particular, but also schools and RTOs) and on the health care sector (particularly hospitals). On that basis, the CPR Panel is keen to hear from participants in those sectors who have been, until now, largely silent in the CPR.

Submissions to the Draft Report can be made until 17 November 2014.