UQ Economics

Inspiration, influence and innovative
ideas and insights

UQ Economics Thought Leadership Series

Inspiration, influence and innovative ideas and insights

How to revive national competition policy: An attack on inflation and anaemic productivity

In an inflationary environment, faced with the shock of rising interest rates, the popular temptation is to regulate something – maybe prices, maybe firms, maybe even inputs.

In this discussion the focus is on competition, a desirable way to see prices constrained. Can we really regulate our way to a more competitive economy? Is sending in the ACCC to do another review, or making another tweak to the merger laws, likely to result in more competitive behaviour in the interests of consumers and improving efficiency? 

About the webinar

The biggest public issue in the national economic discourse is the cost of living. In 2023, it even spawned its own popular term, 'cozzie livs', according to the Macquarie Dictionary.

In response, governments have offered consumer subsidies (particularly on energy) and consequently the financial sector analyses of inflation duly note every quarter that the inflation outlook is dependent on these continuing. Prices are down down, as long as subsidies continue, apparently.

And now attention has turned to regulation. The ACCC will investigate supermarket pricing, and the ACTU has sponsored a report to find that more regulation, with a new price scrutiny institution and perhaps the forced break-up of businesses, is desirable. The ACCC too wants more powers to limit mergers.

These interventions sound like the kind of powerful direct attacks on cozzie livs that could prove popular. But are they sustainable, in their response to inflation and the structure of markets that are meant to serve consumer interests?

And if not, what else can governments do to create better policy solutions? 

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Meet the presenter

profile photo of Peter Harris

Peter Harris AO

Peter Harris is an Industry Fellow in the School of Economics at the University of Queensland. As the former Chairman of the Australian Productivity Commission (2013-18) instrumental in the economy-wide productivity review “Shifting the Dial” (2017).

Prior to that, he managed the public policy development aspects of the National Broadband Network (NBN) as Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Broadband (2009-13).

In his earlier career, Peter served as Senior Private Secretary handling micro economic reform for then Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke; advising the Hilmer Inquiry on National Competition Policy; and in senior positions in both State and Commonwealth Departments designing policy reform in rail, road, aviation and water policy. 

Peter has a Bachelor of Economics from The University of Queensland and in 2013 was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for contributions to effective public policy design including national competition policy.

Watch our previous Thought Leadership Series