ACCC head: Privatisation has damaged the economy

Issue 
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairperson Rod Sims.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairperson Rod Sims said selling public assets has created unregulated monopolies that hurt productivity and damaged the economy.

Speaking at the Melbourne Economic Forum on July 26, Sims said the sale of ports and electricity infrastructure and the opening of vocational education to private companies had caused the public to lose faith in privatisation and deregulation.

Sims said: "I've been a very strong advocate of privatisation for probably 30 years; I believe it enhances economic efficiency.

"I'm now almost at the point of opposing privatisation because it's been done to boost proceeds, it's been done to boost asset sales and I think it's severely damaging our economy."

Sims said privatising ports, including Port Botany and Port Kembla in NSW and the Port of Melbourne, which came with conditions restricting competition from other ports, were examples where monopolies had been created without suitable regulation to control how much they could then charge users.

He said billions of dollars had been wasted in the scandal-plagued vocational education sector since it was opened up to the private sector. Deregulating the electricity market and selling poles and wires in Queensland and NSW had seen power prices almost double over five years, he said.

"The excessive spend on electric poles and wires has damaged our productivity,” he said. “The higher energy price we're getting from some poor gas and electricity policies are damaging some of our productive sectors.

"I think a sharp uppercut is necessary and that's why I'm saying: 'stop the privatisation'."

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