Can the ACCC perform a useful service?

Mathew Dunckley has a fine article in today’s Fin.  He says,

“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission insists it does not have sufficient evidence to back building company Boral’s claims it is the subject of an unlawful union-led boycott.  Boral claims the Construction, ­Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has engineered a boycott of its concrete business in Melbourne as part of the fallout of the bitter ­dispute between the union and building ­company Grocon.

“Boral says the boycott, which has been in place for more than a year, is costing it about $400,000 a week. ­Secondary boycotts are illegal under competition law.

“ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the regulator had examined the case and had not found enough proof to mount a prosecution.”

Dunckley, without the resources of the ACCC behemoth, had found plenty of evidence that he described in a previous article.

Long a severely flawed institution, the ACCC is now plumbing new depths. In the past it has never seen problems in finding grounds to prosecute phantom collusions by businesses, even on occasion, fabricating the evidence.

The Chairman is an ALP favourite son and said at the time of his appointment that though a lot of people were surprised that a non-lawyer with little background in competition policy should have got the nod, those people who knew him well were not surprised.

He has made the institution even more top-heavy than it was and has oversighted some dubious decision.  Not the least of these was the denial of consumer benefits from Coles-Woollies petrol price discounting and the denial of the takeover of NSW government electricity generator, Macgen, by AGL on anti-monopoly grounds even though the merged entity would have only 25 per cent of the market.

Mr Sims announced shortly after his appointment that he was to be more gung-ho in taking companies to court and legal proceedings of the Macgen decision as well as a failed action against Google will have financial ramifications.  The ACCC was already financially stretched and Mr Sims, though he accepted the budget allocated him by the Gillard Government, has sought a $100 million top up from Joe Hockey.

It will be odd if he got it, especially in the current budgetary climate, and straightened financial circumstances might be just what is required to curb the ACCC’s enthusiasm to intervene against phony collusions it so readily sees.

Unfortunately, the institution’s inability to manage its budget is also likely to be used as an excuse not to pursue a prosecution against a union, the transgressions of which are plainly obvious.


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19 Responses to Can the ACCC perform a useful service?

  1. rickw

    ACCC – would there be any downside to scrapping it? I suspect that if it was scrapped and the savings were directed towards tax reductions, consumers and industry would find themselves in a net positive position. The cure would seem to be worse than the disease.

  2. iamok

    I have less and less confidence in any of the institutions that are here to regulate, guide or protect us. Too often we see evidence of favours, cover ups, obfuscation and delays, ostensibly to protect those behind the scenes power players. Unfortunately these players also seem too often to be from one side of politics. Guess. As I have said before it’s not what you do that that matters, it’s who you are that matters these days. There are little if any objective scrutiny or controls Political favour is paramount, and it is out of control.

  3. One reason the ACCC is unable to pursue the Boral case is because it has been busy hounding egg and chicken companies over earth shattering matters such as the meaning of “free range” and “free to roam”.

    It’s been totally captured by the Chardonnay socialists.

  4. mundi

    Clearly the ACCC’s goals are to destroy competition and hurt consumers. The only possible roll ACCC should play is inreguard to setting prices on government entities granted monopolies.

  5. Michel Lasouris

    “straightened financial circumstances” ?????
    “Straitened ” if you must…..

  6. Michel Lasouris

    Although, come to think of it, “straightened” might just be close to the mark…that is, pulled straight to the point of failure

  7. tomix

    I’m one of the tiny minority who spends their money on produce marked free range, grass fed, organic and biodynamic. Don’t know about “chardonnay socialists”. I’d like to think I’m well informed enough to make my own choices.

    Not remotely interested in the ACCCs opinion about any of these matters. It sounds like a standover operation.

  8. Sir Fred Lenin

    Maybe the bikie branch of the Communist Fascist Marxist Engelist Union ,had a few words with the chardonnay socialist commisars? “You dont do what we tell you ,we put a hole in ya chin like Kirk Douglas”

  9. Andrew

    So they don’t have the resources to both shut down discount petrol dockets AND prosecute a union already found to be causing $20m pa damage? Hmmm, what to do? Which minister do these clowns report to?

  10. Dave Wane

    As a non-subscriber to Fairfax publications, I could not read how the secondary boycott is being implemented. However I imagine the CMFEU is “demanding” that Grocon and maybe other builders do not allow Boral Concrete trucks onto their sites?

    Obviously, in an ideal world, Grocon would tell the union to go to hell. Then allow the Boral Concrete trucks onto the site to deliver the concrete, but have a reserve (non-union) concrete laying and finishing crew available nearby (in case it was necessary). And finally, sack any person trying to disrupt the pour or prevent trucks from entering the site. The site is of course “private property”, and the builder is in charge of the property, and therefore, surely, able to determine who is allowed on the site. This could easily include all members of the CMFEU, or similar unions. And finally, the builder (along with other builders) ban all members of unions that have a history of disruptive, uncompetitive practices from entering their sites.

    A de-regulated labour market would also go a long way to rewarding those workers who were productive, whilst at the same time culling the lazy, unproductive troublemakers. And of course making the possibility of stalled concrete pours, and secondary boycotts of any company a thing of the past.

  11. tomix

    There has been an unwritten rule that Melbourne building companies not toeing the union line won’t get block deliveries or concrete deliveries. They can place an order, but it will never be filled.

    Borals new management wants to change that, and good luck to them. 329sf.html

  12. ar

    ACCC… surely there’s another C in there?

  13. Dave Wane

    It is incredible that we still have all this corrupt, thuggish union activity taking place. Only a massive dose of FREEDOM in the market place, and especially in the labour market can put the union bludgers and parasites out of the picture. Private property should mean exactly that, and individuals should be free to negotiate with employers without silly bloody “awards” and without union thugs intimidating them. Until freedom is available to all Australians, this nonsense will continue forever.

  14. Alan, thanks for the link to your paper with Julie on cartels. I will have a look at it tomorrow.

    Much of what future for price surveillance was about the instability of cartels see

  15. Andrew

    I’m assuming the average non-Cat has no idea this goes on and thinks the RC is just an attack on workers (sic) by Abbott666 on orders from Murdoch666 and Rinehart6666.

    Is it possible that there will be decent meeja coverage and the average low info voter will say “WTF?? THAT was what the ALP was defending??”

    Or will this just be reported as “A666 dismantling unions so that Workchoices”?

  16. I am the Walrus, koo koo k'choo

    Yes this ‘see no evil’ response from the ACCC is pathetic.

    However I am not in the least surprised. The hippies have taken over, and such valuable institutions as the rule of law and freedom of speech are being sacrificed in favour of privilege to unions and minority groups.

    Yes Dave let’s have a great big dose of freedom! These parasites can only thrive in the thickets of bureaucracy.

  17. motherhubbard'sdog

    It should be open to Boral to pursue their case in the courts, independently of the ACCC. They should get pretty good representation for $400k a week.

  18. Empire Strikes Back

    Shut it down.

    We already pay for a body to enforce and prosecute federal laws. It’s called the AFP.

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