Today marks the first day the long-awaited criminal cartel laws enter force in Australia. The news laws create new civil and criminal offences for engaging in cartel conduct. Cartel participants now risk up to 10 years jail for making or giving effect to cartel provisions, defined (in s 44ZZRD(2)!) to include price-fixing (this replaces s 45A which has been repealed), bid-rigging, restricting outputs and market division between competitors. Despite the flaws in the drafting of the laws, it is appropriate to treat cartels as criminal and the law should be welcomed.
The Trade Practices Act (TPA) is too big and too complicated. The Government has introduced phase I of their two-phase plan to implement a new Australian Consumer Law which will bulk up the Act even further (the Bill alone runs to 84 pages). The adds to the additional 90 pages of statutory text generated by the recent passage of the criminal cartel act. It cannot go on ... the annotated acts are bursting at their seems.
The ARC has accepted the ranking of law journals proposed (reluctantly) by the Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) and it’s not good news for competition law academics. Rankings are designed to ensure research is assessed based on 'quality' and not merely 'quantity', although exactly how this will work in practice remains unclear. Good quality research is to be encouraged, but quality assessment cannot be made on the basis of journal alone.
On 6 May the government released a second discussion paper relating to the introduction of creeping acquisition laws in Australia. It is disappointing to say the least. A 'creeping acquistion' involves ‘the acquisition of a number of individual assets or businesses over time that may collectively raise competition concerns, but when considered in isolation, are unlikely to be captured by the existing mergers and acquisitions test under section 50 …’ (this is the definition adopted in Chris Bowen’s Press Release) and the ALP have, for many years