Goodbye Queensland Productivity Commission, hello Queensland Competition Authority

By Jamie Doran, Erin McCormick and Declan McInnes
14 Jun 2021
On 2 June 2021, provisions of the Debt Reduction and Savings Act 2021 (Qld) (the Amending Act) commenced which will affect Queensland local governments' competitive neutrality policies.

Until this time, the Queensland Productivity Commission (QPC) was charged with receiving, investigating and reporting on complaints about the alleged failures of government agencies to comply with the competitive neutrality principles. The effect of the Amending Act was to integrate all of the QPC's functions to the Treasury, other than this competitive neutrality function, which has now transitioned to the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA).

With the exception of a new power to prepare and publish competitive neutrality guidelines with ministerial approval, the QCA's functions and powers are essentially identical to the former QPC's. To the extent that these powers and functions are expressed in different terms or structured differently, this is simply to reflect modern drafting practice.

The guideline making power now appears in section 43 of the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997 (Qld) which stipulates that:

(1) The Minister may approve a guideline that sets out the process for dealing with competitive neutrality complaints.

(2) The authority must—

(a) publish the approved guideline on its website; and

(b) subject to this part, comply with the approved guideline when dealing with a competitive neutrality complaint.

According to the QCA's website, it will soon be undertaking public consultation on the draft guideline, which will be published "shortly". In the meantime, the existing guidelines continue to apply, which have not been updated since 1996.

Corresponding amendments have been also been made to the City of Brisbane Regulation 2012 (Qld) and the Local Government Regulation 2012 (Qld) to reflect that the role of the QPC is now performed by the QCA.

Local governments in Queensland will need to ensure that references to the "Queensland Productivity Commission" in their competitive neutrality policies are updated to the "Queensland Competition Authority" as soon as possible. Local governments may also wish to participate in the Queensland Competition Authority's upcoming consultation process for the development of a new competitive neutrality guideline.

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