by Rod Sims, Chairman, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
The year 1993 – the year in which this Journal was first published – turned out to be an auspicious one for practitioners and observers in competition policy in Australia.
The report of the National Competition Policy Review (later dubbed the “Hilmer Report”, after Professor Fred Hilmer, who chaired the review) was published. The then Prime Minister, the Hon Paul Keating, MP, had initiated the review, with the agreement of the Premiers and Chief Ministers of the States and Territories, with the aim of setting out principles for a national competition policy.
The report, written by Professor Hilmer, and by the other members of the panel, Mark Rayner and Geoffrey Taperell, provided the foundations for a national competition policy, and for the revised Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth). In 2012, many of the ideas in the Hilmer Report are reflected in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).
A few months before the Hilmer Report appeared in the winter of 1993, the Trade Practices Law Journal published its first edition. The Journal signalled the recognition – among lawyers, policy advisors, economists, Ministers, and academics – that competition policy in Australia had matured into a fully fledged species unto itself, separate from other forms of policy and law, such as corporations or business law, and industry or economic policy.
In the space of a few months in 1993, two solid volumes – the Journal and the Hilmer Report – marked the arrival of national competition policy with a resounding thud as they hit desks in Canberra and the commercial capitals.
In the near two decades since then, the statutory and case law on competition, and the Journal, have steadily evolved to reflect changing times, shifts in policy, and changes in business and commercial practice. Indeed, in 1993, the Internet was a thing known mostly to the computer cognoscenti, most television came in free-to-air form, and music was sold on compact discs.
In 2011, the Journal was renamed the Australian Journal of Competition and Consumer Law, reflecting the name of the statute that overtook the Trade Practices Act. This year, 2012, marks the 20th year of publishing by the Journal.
Its waistline has slowly expanded over the years. Where it was once 60 or so pages per edition, it is now 80 pages, largely to accommodate the quantity of high-quality material that is submitted by some of Australia’s most learned writers on the subject. For its part, the statute has expanded as well, changed its name, and now integrates consumer law as well as competition law.
The national regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has also grown. Taking one measure as a barometer of the ACCC’s role, the number of employees has grown from about 300 when the ACCC was formed, in 1995, to about 840 in 2011. Indeed, the advent of the Australian Competition and Consumer Act brought “one law, multiple regulators” as the State and Territory fair trading agencies joined the ACCC in implementing and enforcing the national consumer law. Thus, the national “family” is now a lot bigger than it was in 1993.
As one who was there on the ground floor, in 1993, and even earlier, when the Ministers of the Hawke-Keating governments began to apply their minds to competition policy, I know the Journal has been a worthy companion. It has provided a carefully considered oversight of both the full spectrum of policy and law, and deep reflection on specific cases and subjects. It provides an Australian perspective on developments in other jurisdictions – including in North America, Europe, Asia, and New Zealand – and case notes and book reviews. Like other readers, I look forward to another 20 years of it.
The citation for this article is (2012) 20 AJCCL 3.