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.