The federal government isn’t rushing to support changes to competition law that would enhance protections for small business against larger rivals.
Small Business Minister Bruce Billson wants to introduce a so-called “effects test” to lower the threshold for proof in an instance of perceived anti-competition.
Cabinet members are understood to be split on the idea, with some siding with business organisations like the Business Council of Australia.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said while recommendations from the Harper competition review would be presented at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, the government would respond “in due course”.
“We are committed to making our economy more efficient and obviously that’s why we will carefully study the recommendations of the competition review,” he told reporters in Canberra during a break in Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
His government had already done a great deal to support small business with the biggest tax cuts in history, Mr Abbott said.
But shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has described the proposed “effects test” as “one of the most dangerous economic ideas considered by a cabinet in living memory”.
He said if Mr Billson got his way it would strangle the spirit of enterprise.
“(It will) have every manager and board looking over their shoulder as they make decisions, wondering whether this decision will end them up in court because it may have some effect which was unintended,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.
However, a key accounting group has thrown its support behind the small business minister as he seeks to sway the cabinet.
CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley said Mr Billson is acting on the sound advice of an independent review panel and complaints from big business and its representative bodies are entirely expected and can be discounted.
“The minister is staring down these concerns and has made the right call to support its introduction,” Mr Malley said.