The Minister for Financial Services & Regulation, Joe Hockey, today announced that the Government supports the application process by Newsagent Federations for an ACCC authorisation to collectively negotiate with publishers on behalf of individual newsagents.
"The Government believes that the authorisation process under the Trade Practices Act is available and being appropriately used to assist small businesses. The Government supports these authorisations being granted by the ACCC on a case by case basis."
"Yesterday, the ACCC authorised collective negotiating for dairy farmers for their negotiations of contractual terms with diary processors and recently members of the medical profession have also been granted authorisations allowing exemptions of the Trade Practices Act to occur when the ACCC is satisfied that the public benefit of the activities outweigh the public detriment."
Newsagents want a permanent capacity to collectively negotiate with their suppliers, free from the operation of the Trade Practices Act prohibition against anti-competitive arrangements.
Mr Hockey said the Government had supported and encouraged newsagents as the industry changed from a high level of private regulation previously imposed by publishers and the principal magazine distributors. The Government supported newsagent applications for authorisation by the ACCC in 1996 to ensure newspaper home delivery was maintained and 1999 to enable sufficient time be given to newsagents to adjust to new industry arrangements.
In November 1998, the Australian Competition Tribunal found that the then existing newsagency arrangements no longer provided sufficient public benefits to warrant their exemption from the Trades Practices Act 1974.
In 1999, at the request of the Australian Newsagents Federation, Mr Hockey arranged for the ACCC to facilitate a way forward for newsagents, publishers and distributors based on commercial contracts.
The ANF, subsequently negotiated those arrangements with individual publishers and distributors in 1999 and 2000 under an 'authorisation' granted by the ACCC and supported by the Howard Government. These outcomes have now largely been achieved.